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Dissuading uninvited guests in the garden

Sun., Aug. 29, 2010

This bull moose was a source of wonder and frustration for the Mulvihill household last winter.  (Susan Mulvihill)
This bull moose was a source of wonder and frustration for the Mulvihill household last winter. (Susan Mulvihill)

Early one morning in January, my husband and I were greeted by a bull moose looking in our front window.

While it was cool getting to see him up close, my heart just sank. We already had to contend with deer in our yard and now a moose had been added to the equation.

I feared for the plants in my landscape and wondered if our water garden could survive such a large critter if he was in the mood for a swim.

Dealing with deer and moose is a source of frustration for many Inland Northwest residents. Our options fall into three categories: scaring them off, offending their keen sense of smell and/or putting up physical barriers to keep them away from our gardens.

Having dogs loose in one’s yard is definitely a good way to scare the intruders away, especially in the hours between dawn and dusk when they’re most active.

Placing loose sheets of chicken wire or weld-wire on the ground around an area you are trying to protect works well because deer don’t like to step on unstable surfaces.

You can string monofilament (fishing line) between trees or posts in areas deer frequently visit. They are unlikely to see it but it will startle them when they brush up against it.

We hang wind chimes over our arbor gates because deer rarely will jump through the openings when the chimes are swinging near their heads.

Some gardeners buy ScareCrow sprinklers. They have a built-in motion detector and are attached to a hose. When it senses movement, it shoots a blast of water that will startle deer – or any other critter, for that matter. I’ve heard they are quite effective.

There are many types of repellents that will chase deer away. A simple one is made with a dozen eggs and a gallon of water. Mix together, add to a clean sprayer and spray the foliage of whatever you need to protect. It gives off a sulfur smell deer don’t like.

Hanging bars of deodorant soap from trees or posts works well, too.

Products like Ropel, Deer Away, Plantskydd and Not Tonight Deer are examples of commercial repellents found in garden centers. Always read and follow the label directions for best results. We used repeated applications of a particularly smelly repellent to let the moose know he wasn’t welcome in our garden.

There are many types of physical barriers you can use to protect your landscape.

To keep bucks with antlers from scraping tree trunks in the fall and winter, surround them with a cylinder of poultry netting, weld-wire or wrought iron.

To hide tasty veggies like lettuce, carrots and spinach from deer, place hoops of black plastic sprinkler pipe over your garden beds and cover them with floating row cover. This woven fabric lets in air, light and moisture but will keep deer from seeing what’s underneath.

You can also use bird netting or poultry wire to protect your crops.

Fencing is by far the most effective way to keep deer out of your garden. An 8-foot fence is the most optimal height. There are a number of variations that folks have used successfully including shorter double fences, slanted fences, electrified fences and plastic deer fencing that comes in 7-foot-high rolls.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at Visit her blog at for more gardening information and tips.

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