Monday, July 11, 2011

Experimenting With Deer Fencing

Up until this year, I have had no problem letting the deer browse a bit in the rose garden as they roam through the property in the wee hours of the morning or evening.  I have plenty of roses, and a little nip here or there didn't hurt them a bit.  This year, however, the deer seem to be spending more time munching and less time traveling.  Many of my smaller roses have had a tough time keeping any of their new growth.

A photo from earlier this year.  Imagine what this rose COULD have been, if the deer hadn't gnawed off all the buds like they did.

The Austin Garden is in a particularly difficult spot ... in a direct line, midway between the grape vines at the winery (deer love grapes as much as people do) and my other neighbor's pond.  The deer have been nipping the taller new growth all season long.  I have to do something.

Folks have suggested that I use a deer repellant chemical.  I bought Liquid Fence last year (or was it the year before?) because this one seems to be rated the best.  The stuff REEKS, which is why it repels the deer ... and it also is quite effective at repelling people.  I thought it was stupid to try to protect my sweet-smelling roses by making them stink.   (Plus, the stuff is expensive, the deer can become accustomed to it, and it gummed up my sprayer.)

There are other chemical/scent/barrier ideas that I have heard about.  I decided against using bars of deodorant soap, or human hair, or rotten eggs, or tiger dung (where do they come up with this stuff).  I could try to fence them out, but a traditional deer fence is at least 8 feet high, and must enclose the area to be protected.  This would be expensive and completely impractical on our open property.

A visitor and I were talking about this a couple of weeks ago  (Hi, Donna!)  She had a suggestion that I AM going to try, which was given to her by the owner of the fabulous garden at Mount Sharon, who swears by its effectiveness.  This is enough of an endorsement for me.

I bought an armload of 4-foot fiberglass plant stakes at Big Lots.  They are a lovely,color-of-grass, unobtrusive green, and they only cost 70 cents each.  (Tractor Supply has similar stakes in pale grey for $1.09.)  I hammered the stakes into the ground at four-foot intervals around the perimeter of the Austin Garden.

Remember, you're supposed to be concentrating on the fence ... not the weeds.

Donna told me to loosely attach two strands of fishing line between the stakes -- one at the top of the stake and one near the middle.  She said that this is enough of a barrier to aggravate the deer, and they'll move on.  I used small zip ties to keep the fishing line in place.

Working by myself, it only took a little over an hour for me to do the whole garden.  The green stakes blend nicely with the grass, and the fishing line is all but invisible.

Since this fence can't have a true gate, I left an access point by overlapping two layers of the fence across the path and I can zig-zag into the garden through this opening ... if that makes sense.

My next challenge, if this experiment in the Austin Garden is successful, is trying to figure out how to use fencing like this to help protect the Rose Field.  This will be a LOT more complicated.

(edited to add:  Donna just emailed me and told me that I have to tighten up my fishing line.  I guess I know what I'll be outside doing later this morning.)


  1. I hope that works for you! I like that's it's almost invisible!

    We have a young apple tree that we planted a couple of years ago and the poor thing looks terrible because the deer keep eating all the new growth! I just might have to try your idea!

  2. Good luck with this method. We don't have a garden, or roses, but once Hubby retires we will most likely put in a garden and THEN we will be in need of fence to keep the critters out. I'll be paying attention to see if this works for you.


  3. I sure hope this works. There are lots of deer to nibble on the roses and rabbits to munch on everything else. The deer here seem to like to just take the buds off. We have corn around us now so I have a little reprieve until fall. They still roam through but they not quite as hungry.

  4. Hi Connie, you will be surpised at how well this does work...but tighten up the line, I usually take on string and tie off at one end, and go up the line, and loop around the pole a few times, and move onto the next. At the beginning, I would have a bent pole, where a deer freaked out and pushed the pole almost over. But they will learn to stay away. Works on my thousands of hostas.

  5. Sorry that the deer decided to make your rose garden a hang out. This time of year, the fawns are so small that the doe will stay close and eat anything rather than go off for miles to forage.

    Some gardeners use Milorganite as a fertilizer and say deer don't touch their gardens. I've noticed that when I use PlantTone, the deer and rabbits stay out of my garden.

    If you must resort to a deer repellent spray, look into the I Must Garden products. I don't use deer spray, but I use their rabbit spray. Doesn't reek, is natural and lasts for 3-4 weeks without washing off.

  6. I had a similar problem with deer eating young fruit trees. Sorry to say that the fishing line didn't seem to make a difference...nor did stringing video tape, which some say creates an ultrasonic noise that they hate.

  7. I read about this system of foiling the deer years ago on a marijuana growers site. It is important that the fishing line be tight. The deer can't see it but since they can feel it touching them at chest height they think discretion might be the better part of valor and leave.

  8. I once almost chased a moose off, then remembered that I wanted to live. He enjoyed my peas.

  9. Not only are your roses lovely, they are tasty, too! Hope this works for you. Have you seen those things they are advertising on TV right now? You can put them on a stake or tree and they emit a sound that is supposed to keep critters away. Probably too good to be true.

  10. Hi Connie, The ladies at Completely Clematis in Ipswich Mass. told me about using fishing line this spring. They said to string it so it bumps into their chest. We don't have that many deer here yet, so I just filed the info in my memory. I used to use fishing line strung around the perimeter of my boat about three feet above the gunwale to keep sea gulls off the deck. It was very effective. Regards, John

  11. I'm headed to Big Lots today to see if i can find those stakes. We're experiencing severe drought in Texas, and the deer love that I'm keeping my roses, hydrangeas & fruit trees nice and moist for them. I had read about fences of old VHS tape recently (similar to what you did with the fishing line), but this sounds much better since it's practically invisible! Thanks for the tutorial!

  12. Please let us know if this works for you! We have deer problems, too, and the dog doesn't seem to mind them! This seems like such a simple solution!

  13. Because deer can't see depth, some people install posts so that the fence will angle outward at the top (/). Tying some old CDs and colored tape (used to tag trees, etc.) strategically along the fishing line might prevent a run-through and having to redo the line. Good luck!

  14. It is nice to know that even Bambi loves your roses!
    Have a wonderful day...fixing that fishing line!
    xo, misha

  15. If this actually works, please let me know.They have been having a field day on all my new growth.I am seriously thinking about some way to poison them.No joke. Rick

  16. Deer were eating my roses just before they bloomed. I'd be just ready to take in a blossom and they'd nip it off about an inch below the bud. Frustrating!

    Then I discovered the Wireless Deer Fence. They are green stakes about 18 inches high. They have two batteries inside and a floral attractant and a couple of electrodes on top. Deer sniff them and get a shock--and then don't come back.

    I placed one order just to see if they worked, and now my back yard is full of them. They really do work and they are quite unobtrusive. When they arrive you can be fully protected from deer within an hour!

    Dave Roberts


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