Fencing, chimes keep deer at bay

This deer fence is made of 4-foot-tall field fence to which 3 feet of polypropylene deer fencing has been added. (Susan Mulvihill)
This deer fence is made of 4-foot-tall field fence to which 3 feet of polypropylene deer fencing has been added. (Susan Mulvihill)

Today’s topic is a sensitive subject for many gardeners: How to deal with deer in the garden. It’s mighty hard to enjoy your favorite outdoor activity when there are big critters out there who want to eat everything you plant, isn’t it?

Living in a rural area, my husband, Bill, and I see deer frequently, along with the occasional moose. Both can wreak havoc in any landscape. We initially tried several methods to repel them, some of which worked well and some that didn’t.

Last year, we decided we’d had enough and knew the best deterrent is a fence that is tall enough to keep deer out. Most of the literature recommends a height of 7 feet although a deer that is under stress – being chased by dogs or humans, for example – can even vault over that.

Because we already had a 4-foot-tall field fence around our small orchard and back yard, we only needed to add about 3 feet of height to thwart the deer.

First, Bill bought 10-foot-long rods of rebar, which he pounded into the ground next to the preexisting metal T-posts, giving him a 7-foot-high fence support. The rebar was secured to the posts with wire.

Then we bought some rolls of polypropylene deer fence at Wilbur-Ellis in Spokane Valley. The rolls were 7 feet high by 100 feet long. We cut each roll in half lengthwise and attached the 3.5-foot pieces to the rebar posts above our 4-foot-high field fence. We used black plastic zip-ties to secure the deer fence to the field fence.

The result is we have a 7-foot-tall deer fence that is made of plastic mesh on top and field fence below. So far, no deer or moose have entered the enclosed part of our yard.

We’ve also hung wind chimes over our arbor gate. Deer are unlikely to jump through the opening because the moving chimes frighten them.

The fence blends in nicely with the background so it doesn’t look too much like a stockade. Naturally I would prefer to have no fence at all, but the benefits far outweigh having to go to all of this trouble.

Keep in mind that for any fence project that requires post-hole digging, you need to know ahead of time where any buried electrical or gas lines are located.

Solid fences also work well at keeping deer out. Because they can’t see what’s on the other side, they are hesitant about jumping over.

Some gardeners have built two parallel fences that are about 4 feet tall and 4 feet apart. These work because deer can jump high and they can jump wide, but they can’t do both at the same time. The downside is that you have about twice the expense in building them.

Other more economical deterrents for keeping deer away include having a dog in your yard, hanging bars of deodorant soap near areas you’re trying to protect or hanging bags of human hair (from hair salons) in the garden. Those last two suggestions work because they offend a deer’s keen sense of smell.

No matter what, it’s a challenge keeping the deer out. You just have to be creative.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@live.com.Visit her blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com for more gardening tips, information and events.

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