The wail of homeowners discovering their yards prone to four-legged intruders is all too familiar: “We tried everything to deter deer: repellents, soap hanging in trees, human hair, even urine. The deer would not leave our gardens alone.”
Experts agree that one of the surest ways to keep deer out is fencing. The type of fence is usually dictated by budget, aesthetics, site conditions and how many months of the year protection is needed.
Prefab deer netting, stretched between metal posts or trees, offers a flexible, lightweight, easy-to-install, less expensive method for low to moderate deer pressure. Netting works well in hilly areas where rigid wire fencing is more difficult to install, and offers temporary solutions, perhaps in spring and fall when deer are more troublesome.
Heavier-duty, ultraviolet light-resistant, polypropylene varieties, often 7 ½-8 feet tall, are available. Nylon cable run horizontally through the top of the netting and three feet above ground (considered deer’s highest impact area) further secures the netting. Stress points where gates are installed usually require larger posts, perhaps anchored in concrete.
More permanent and vulnerable garden settings, such as orchards, vegetable and rose gardens, may mandate sturdier, more expensive woven- , braided- and welded-wire fences, slanted fences, double-row fences or electric fences. Again, wire fences are recommended to be at least 8 feet tall with 12-foot-tall posts to enable them to be buried 3-4 feet.
Slanted fences with repeated parallel single strands of wire, extending outward at a 45-degree angle, need not be as tall as standard fences, requiring deer to clear both the height and width of the fence. Double-row fences 4-5 feet apart also need be only 4-5 feet tall, also playing on deer fears of jumping without landing safely.
While electric fences offer deterrence at generally lower cost than wire fences, their use mandates precautions. Chargers, either 110-volt or battery types, often must be protected from the elements. Desirable chargers emit higher voltage, lower-amperage current at short pulses to “teach deer a lesson.” Plastic polytape fence maximizes visibility and arrests deer curiosity. A type of copper and polyester braided wire, used on horse farms, also works well.
After installation, electric fences should be monitored regularly.
WRITTEN BYBob Baird DHS Landscape Designer/Consultant Garden Columnist