It took me about a year to design and plant a garden that I hoped would look like a painting. It took just a few weeks for it to become a nightclub for deer. At first, scarring my design with deer netting seemed tantamount to keying my car or splashing ink on my best suit. But after trying various thick wood and metal posts, I found aesthetic and functional success by borrowing an idea from suspension bridges and circus tents.
Many of these materials can be substituted with other supplies you have at home. I needed anchors to create suspension and support for the deer netting; for this I used steel spiral stakes marketed as leash anchors for dogs. For every rebar post, I needed 1 to 3 spiral stakes.
The steel screw eyes are only necessary if you’re adding on to a shorter existing wood fence.
- 8-foot rebar posts
- 7-foot plastic deer net
- Black monofilament wire
- Steel spiral stakes, 1 to 3 per rebar post
- Tent stakes
- Zip ties, clips, or coated wire ties
- Steel screw eyes (if adding to shorter existing wood fence)
- Drill (if adding to existing wood fence)
My objective was to make something as unobtrusive as possible, so I avoided gate and door structures. I simply left flaps of net locked into place with three zip ties or clips and hooked onto tent stakes at the base; these can be unhooked when I want to open the garden for work or visitors. The body of the fence is composed of longer, unbroken panels of net that are permanently secured. Where the deer fence overlapped with an existing wooden fence, I simply anchored the rebar to the fence.
1. Determine the spacing for the rebar posts.
If possible, place them a foot or two within the outside edge of your garden. This will allow you to install monofilament wires for support from any angle, and camouflage them with deer-proof plantings. Regular spacing at 7- to 15-foot intervals will work for straight borders. Along curved edges, each post will require individual consideration. The goal is to use as few posts as possible while still creating a strong fence.
Push the rebar into the ground and step back to check the effect of the spacing. Pay special attention to garden design. If you have a focal point, such as a bench, place posts symmetrically on either side. When determining where entrances will go, carefully consider how you’ll be using your garden. It’s best to determine this early, as it’ll be a lot harder to convert a segment of the fence into an opening later.
2. Install the rebar posts.
After spacing the rebar, climb up on a ladder and use a hammer to knock them 1-1⁄2 to 2 feet into the ground. Make sure they’re all even. You may have to pack the soil around the posts before and after driving them into the ground.
3. Cut the deer netting to size.
Leave an extra 2 feet of length to go beyond the edges. This will give you room for an entrance flap or to adjust the spacing of the rebar. Tentatively tie the netting to the posts with twine. When the net is tied to the posts, it will bend them. Starting at the most stressed post, tie a strand of monofilament wire to the top. You may need to use pliers to tie it securely. Then, pull the wire from its free end until you find the precise angle and tension required to support the rebar. Screw a steel spiral stake about 90 percent of the way into the ground at that location to act as an anchor. Tie the wire to it with pliers. Adjust the tension if necessary by screwing the anchor in further.
Posts at corners, deep curves, or openings may require several wires and steel spiral stakes from multiple angles. You may need to apply wires to the top and the middle of some posts. Trial and error will probably be necessary. When the rebar posts of a section are properly supported, secure the net permanently with a generous number of zip ties.
4. Secure the bottom of the netting.
After all of the net is attached to the posts, use tent stakes to secure the bottom edges. Conceal them with mulch or dirt.
5. Extend existing fencing.
I already had a 4-foot wood fence on two sides of the garden. To deer-proof it, I spaced rebar posts 15 feet apart and passed them each through a single screw eye driven into the existing fence posts. Only the corner posts needed wire suspension. The rebar doesn’t have to be driven as deep into the ground when you’re adding to an existing fence.
Adapting the Method
This has been an effective method for me for eight years, with no upkeep beyond occasional zip tie replacement. But the system could easily be refined. The parts I used are cheap and readily available — it might be possible to find something thinner and more demure than rebar. Posts might be set in concrete for added strength. The monofilament wire could be connected to the posts through a loophole or with a small clamp. Some people may prefer a more formal entry structure. Make whatever modifications you need to create a system that works for you.
Plastic deer netting won’t exclude groundhogs or rabbits by itself. For some people, that’s a problem, but I don’t mind; they chew small holes that other animals, such as turtles and cats, also use.