Trying to figure out how to keep deer out of your garden? Thankfully, my clever dad figured out an incredibly simple trick that only costs a few dollars and has been 100% effective at keeping the deer out.
We’ve never quite figured out why, but deer do not come into our garden to graze despite the fact that:
- Our property backs up to the woods and we see deer walking through the woods frequently;
- Our yard is an edible landscape chock full of tasty greens and other goodies that deer love.
Maybe it’s because of the steep slope and terraced, rock walls. Maybe it’s because I, like any self-respecting man, regularly “scent” the area along the back of our property where the deer would enter.
More likely still is that there are other abundant food sources all around us that make an easier, safer target.
We’re the lucky ones.
So many people we know – even in urban areas – have “deer problems.” If you’ve spent a lot of time growing and tending a garden or landscape only to have it become another critter’s free salad bar, the resulting sentiments will likely be equal parts rage and heartbreak.
It’s enough to make a vegetarian crave venison.
What to do?
Lucky for you, I’m going to tell you exactly how to keep deer out of your garden – inexpensive and permanently. But I can’t take any credit for the discovery…
Dad And Deer War I
It just so happens that my father lives on the edge of a forested golf course.
Deer, as you may not know, are “edge animals.” They’re specifically adapted to occupy the edges of forests and grasslands/meadows. From evening to morning, they’ll forage in the open, plant-rich boundary zones, then settle back into the forest or thickets to rest during the day.
This means two things:
- a lush suburban yard with a nearby patch of forest is PERFECT deer habitat; and
- if you live in such a place, you’d better learn how to keep deer out of your garden or yard if you don’t want your plants to be eaten.
My dad’s landscape beds have long been full of gorgeous rose bushes and lilies. Much to his dismay, these plants were frequently being mowed down by deer at night.
Determined not to yield to defeat, he went to Lowes and Home Depot to find a fix.
The salespeople were quite happy to sell him products that claimed to be the cure-all for deer… Scented sprays, motion-triggered ultrasonic noise and light devices, etc.
He also tried putting fur from his dog on his most prized plants, hoping the smell of a ferocious predator (a frequently-groomed 20 pound King Charles spaniel) would scare away the pestiferous ruminants.
All these remedies had one thing in common: none of them worked.
Victory: Deer War II – How to keep deer out of your garden using “dad’s trick”
Lesser men would have given in to despair, but dad invoked his inner-Winston Churchill and soldiered on.
He used the magic of the internet, he consulted farmers, golf course maintenance professionals, and anyone else who could possibly offer solutions to defeat the enemy.
It’s unclear who ultimately provided the idea for the secret weapon that would lead to victory (there was a lot of incoming intel to sort through), but whoever you are, you deserve a medal.
The secret weapon: fishing line. Yes, fishing line. 15-30 pound test, invisible fishing line to be exact which you may already have at home or you can buy now via Amazon.
How Does Fishing Line Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden?
No, you’re not trying to hook and reel in a deer with the fishing line. You simply string the fishing line about 3 feet above the ground attached to stakes. The lines should be hung a few feet outside of the beds you want to protect, not right up against the plants.
You can use metal or plastic stakes that blend into your garden, making the whole setup virtually invisible to the human eye. Start by inserting 48″ tall stakes about 8-12″ deep into the ground around the area you want to protect. Then tie your fishing line between the stakes about 3′ high. (Here are the 48″ garden stakes we use — they’re long-lasting and equally useful for other garden tasks as well.)
How the heck does fishing line keep a deer out of your garden or yard? You have to know a bit about how deer “work.”
Deer have better night vision than we do, but their eyes don’t operate quite the same as a human eye.
You have “predator eyes” on the front of your head. Your eyes give you a 120-degree view of what’s in front of you. They zoom in on a specific point and everything else around that point blurs.
Deer have “prey eyes” on the side of their heads that give them a 300-degree view, but they can only relatively clearly see (at the equivalent of 20/40 vision) the 60-degree view that overlaps between the input from both eyes.
Simply put, deer are really good at spotting movement from relatively far away and from a very wide field of vision. However, when it comes to having clear, focused vision on something right in front of them, their eyes don’t cut it.
A deer’s eyes works great if a wolf or mountain lion is after them.
Unlike their eyesight, a deer’s sense of smell and hearing is far better than yours.
Now, back to the fishing line trick…
Basically, deer can not see the fishing line that’s right in front of them. They can smell your delicious garden/landscape plants and see a blurry version of that lush, green goodness.
They start to approach the meal you grew for them. There’s no sound, smell, or sight of danger anywhere around. They move in for the feast.
Then suddenly, something right in front of them that they hadn’t detected brushes against their fur. What the heck – run Bambi, run!
And that’s it.
Your garden plants have been saved and the memory of the frightening encounter is etched into the deer’s memory. You emerge from your house in the morning to a clear and glorious view of victory.
Now you know how to keep deer out of your garden or yard.
Be sure to thank my dad, and those brave men and women that came before him. Without their service, you might never have learned how to keep deer out of your garden.
Now go forth and conquer!
Latest update: Does Irish Spring soap keep deer out of your garden?
Another common claim we’ve heard is that Irish Spring (the popular soap) will keep deer out of a garden or yard. Supposedly, deer don’t like the smell so it keeps them away. Is this true or not?
Our good friends who live down the street from us put Irish Spring soap to the test in their garden this year out of curiosity. When we say “put to the test” we mean they probably put out at least one bar of soap for every 3 square feet. It was certainly smelly enough to keep us out of their garden!
The results? Deer ate every plant to the ground, repeatedly – even plants sitting inches from the soap.
So it would appear that Irish Spring soap was not effective at keeping deer out of their garden. However, they now have quite a bit of soap in their soil.