Deer are wonderful creatures, beautiful and poised, but not so much when they are rummaging through your garden. All the hard work you put into your trees can be gone in seconds if a doe comes around with a few fawns or even a buck! So, you really need to find ways to keep them away.
One of the best ways to keep deer away from your trees is to build a mesh fence around each tree. This will prevent the deer from reaching the tree what so ever. Depending on the tree type, there are other options like using sprinklers, repellent plants, or sound to deter deer.
Beyond that, there are even more ways to make the deer go away without harming them. To learn more about this, as well as how to know if you have a deer problem and what attracts them to your home, read on!
Build a Mesh Fence Around the Tree
OK. So here’s a good one.
As mentioned, building a mesh fence around individual trees is one of the best solutions you could have.
If a buck comes up and rubs his horns on a tree during the early phases of its life cycle, it could very well permanently stunt the development of the tree.
Alas, building a fence is the only true way to prevent deer from harming trees — and it consistently works.
Now, deer are complex creatures. For example, they can jump 10 feet (3m) high, but they won’t jump a fence if they can’t see what’s on the other side, which is why some people recommend opaque fences instead of the ones that can be seen through.
When I worked on the farm(s), every fence surrounding the orchard was see-through with wire or linked fencing. Come to think of it, this was the case for most farms that I’ve seen as its cheaper.
To combat the height that deer can jump, farmers usually put the fences up VERY high, in the 10-12ft tall range.
Besides jumping, there’s another thing to know about deer — they don’t like small spaces. They like to roam free and hate to feel stuck.
So, instead of installing an expensive, opaque fence around your property or even a fence around your entire property like a farmer, you can simply install smaller mesh fences around individual trees and shrubs.
This method works well because it’s easy to do,won’t harm deer, and will keep your tree protected. Deer will walk around the plant, perhaps look at it, but they won’t be able to reach the gentle foliage or the bark. And they will give up.
If you have smaller plants that you’d also like to protect, there’s loose netting as a solution. Of course, the netting wouldn’t be metal in this case, but rather something softer, yet resistant.
You can take a look at this Gardeneer By Dalen Deer-X Protective Netting, which is quite easy to put up and inexpensive compared to the amount of netting that you get. In one package, there are 700 square feet of net – however, there is a downside to the netting. While it can definitely keep bigger animals out, smaller animals can easily get ensnared in the netting. Additionally, the plastic isn’t really meant to last a long time but its a great short term option.
If you’re crafty or can spring for a more stable option, I recommend you take a look at getting a fence made from galvanized wire vs. plastic just to avoid that instance from happening. The wire fencing will last you longer than the plastic, will give you a better chance at keeping deer out, and won’t decompose into the soil. So if you’re crafty – get to it!
The stronger option is you’ll find it in this MTB Galvanized Welded Wire Mesh Garden Fence. It’s available in various sizes, so you can find the one that works for deer. It’s generally more cost-effective than other brands of wiring, so no matter the size of your yard, it should be a good option.
Alas, if you’re trying to protect a larger tree from getting the fruit taken off it, you will need to use more fence and make a wider circle around the tree in order to keep the deer away from the fruit that could be growing on the branches,
Install a Motion-Sensor Water Sprinkler
Another way to scare the deer off is to spray them with water. Of course, this won’t always be possible through simple spraying — you won’t always be there — so what you need is a motion-triggered sprinkler.
My favorite motion sensor water sprinkler is the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer due to its day and night auto motion detection.
Overall, these sprinklers are completely harmless to deer and they could help you a lot. The Orbit sprinkler above works at night, so your plants will be covered.
You might even get some watering done while you’re sleeping!
This is a good solution if your neighbors are bothered by the sound of windchimes or any other contraption you have to make sounds. In another article, I highly recommend the use of a motion sensor / triggered water sprinkler along with motion sensor lights.
You can put the sprinkler up along the edges of your property, or in the areas where you notice the deer are coming from.
As soon as the deer try to enter your property, the sprinkler will go off and the deer will run.
As with some previous possible solutions, be aware that deer adapt well, so they may start to avoid that area, and find another entrance. The key is to move the sprinkler often enough so they can’t get used to it.
Or you know, just get two sprinklers.
This is an effective method that will save a lot of time, but you’ll need more than one sprinkler, especially if you have a larger property and more than one tree your trying to protect
Also, once the snow falls and the winter comes around, you’ll have a much harder time with this as the water will freeze inside the hose depending on your geography.
A good alternative would be to install motion-triggered lights. The deer will be scared of the sudden change and they will run. This doesn’t work during the day, though, so you can use it only during the night.
These may also be harder to put up on spots where the deer are most likely to see them. But, it’s a solid solution and it can replace your lights on the porch, saving you some power at the same time.
While the Orbit sprinkler I reccomended above runs off of batteiries, you may enjoy trying this Hoont Cobra Animal Repeller, which is a solar powered alternative and is specifically marketed for animal deterring.
For maximum efficiency, put up a few around your trees. The deer won’t come near if there’s something always spraying at them
Repel Them With Deer Resistant Plants
Deer have an excellent sense of smell, so you might want to use that against them. They can smell the plants they like from quite a distance away, which is what drives them in.
Good news is, if you block or mask those smells with the ones they don’t like, you can confuse their senses.
This method may not be the most reliable one, but it’s a generally peaceful alternative if you don’t want to put a fence up.
Better yet, you can use this with the metal mesh in combination for a 1-2 combo!
One popular option is a soap bar, as long as it doesn’t have coconut oil since that seems to attract them.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that even then, deer will eat any tree as long as they are three feet (almost 1m) away from the soap, so this isn’t a totally foolproof method.
Rutgers University, along with local professionals, published a list of deer-resistant plants. The article, which can be found here, lists the most common plants that are rarely damaged deer.
While the list is QUITE expansive and does not focus on why the deer leave these plants alone, I’ve pulled some of the common plants that have a strong natural scent and are listed as “rarely damaged by deer” by Rutgers:
- Forget Me Not
- Lemon Balm
The researchers did NOT make this correlation between plant scent and repelling deer, this is a Pest Pointers point of view!
Bottom line: Regardless of scent strength, we do know that deer don’t like these plants. It’s worth a shot having them around!
Ideally, having these plants around and their scent will keep the deer away from your growing trees.
Harvest From Your Trees as Soon as Plants Ripen
This is a simple solution, but it only works if the biggest problem you have is ripe fruits and vegetables. In this case, the sooner you take them away, the better.
Your garden will look better as well, so that’s another benefit.
However, deer are prone to eating young trees — the foliage and soft bark — more than they are to eating the actual produce. In case you have young trees, this won’t work for you. Removing ripe plants will reduce the appealing smell, though. This is especially true if you have other plants in your yard that deer may like.
By removing other scents that they like, they will be less likely to come to your yard. However, you need to find a method of protection for the young trees. Stick with the mesh for younger trees.
If you have any leftover nuts, fruit, or vegetables that deer like, you can place it at the edge of your property and feed the deer, which might make them avoid your garden. If they are fed, they have no reason to bother you.
Trim Grass and Tall Bushes
Deer may like open spaces when they are playing, but they aren’t really keen on spending too much time in an open space.
If you’ve ever tried to get close to a deer, you’ll notice that they are VERY skittish.
Usually, unless they’re habituated, they like to start secluded from anything that could startle them or that they may perceive as a threat.
This is where tall grass and tall bushes come into play. They provide cover for deer and make them feel safe entering your property and getting close to your trees.
Without the cover of plants, a predator could see them and attack them (whihc of course isn’t favorable.) Deer aren’t the bravest animals, and they will run at the smallest sign of a predator.
But, if your garden or yard (wherever your tree may be) gives them places to hide like bushes, tall grass, etc., they will hang around for longer.
However, if you trim tall bushes and grass, you may find that deer have become a bit more skittish about staying in your yard.
If you keep your yard neat, they will be much more hesitant to snack on the plants off your trees or rub the bark off it.
Deer usually stick around the edges between forested, bushy areas and open spaces, and unless they are really hungry, they won’t move forward.
One way to make sure that they truly won’t move further is to plant some plants that they love — but you don’t need — on the edges of your property.
For example, an oak tree is a good choice, because deer love acorns and this will give them plenty of nutritious value. Oak trees can also provide wonderful shade if you want to take your family on picnics, and they can look amazing on your property.
Make sure that you plant it far from other sensitive plants though since oak trees could hamper or block their growth as they grow.
I’m really a big, big fan of this idea.
This will ensure that the deer are fed and you won’t have any harm done to the deer-sensitive plants in your yard. Another good idea is to plant your most vulnerable plants closer to your home, where deer will be less likely to wander up to.
Plant Hedges Around Your Property
As mentioned, deer don’t appreciate the obstacles they can’t see through, so they won’t jump over them, no matter how high they can jump. They don’t know what’s on the other side, and they need to feel safe in order to cross over.
While opaque, tall fences are quite expensive and difficult to install, with a lot of maintenance involved and a look that isn’t always appealing, thick hedges may just be the thing for you. They will blend in with the rest of the landscape and they will only need occasional maintenance.
They will need to be tall, so keep that in mind. Remember, they can jump up to 10 feet high.
It will also take a bit of work to set them up, especially if you have a big property. If the deer are always coming from one side, perhaps you could put hedges only on that side, to cut the expenses and time needed to complete all the work.
The hedge will also be great against other animals. This is not a tree-specific solution, but it works in a general manner — if deer can’t get to your property, they won’t eat your trees.
Decorate Your Landscape With Sound-Making Items
Another good option is to rely even more on the fear that deer have of their predators, and install a bunch of moving and sound-making items around your garden.
An example that you may like is windchimes. They look great and add a certain charm to your garden while being effective against deer. You can hang them on the trees themselves if they are big enough to handle that, or you can install a post near your tree — or even within the mesh — with a windchime on it.
The good news is that wind chimes are inexpensive and you can get many different kinds, thus making your garden look like something from a fairytale.
The noise from windchimes is often pleasant for people and it won’t bother your neighbors. Still, it will be loud and surprising enough — as well as consistent enough — to scare deer.
A bunch of different wind chimes will make for a wonderful — albeit scary to the deer — melody. Remember that deers are quick to adapt, so change the placement and the variety of the windchime often.
You could also hang some buckets and old pots and pans on a strong string and hang them around. The noise will be louder, though, and much less pleasant than that of wind chimes.
That’s a Wrap!
There you have it! Consider these solutions as a way to deter deer in a peaceful manner while still being excellent as a way to reduce their impact. The most recommended solution is the metal mesh around your trees, although the other methods could help supplement that and put your mind at ease.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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