Garden Fences: How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden

Learn how to build a sturdy garden fence that will keep deer and other critters from munching on your garden crops.

| June/July 1998

  • Running Deer
    Without garden fencing, this leaping, hungry deer might eat your veggies.
  • 168-018-01
    Insulated handle gate-attachment.
  • 168-018-02
    Wire and clip.
  • 168-018-03
    Post-set linkage.

  • Running Deer
  • 168-018-01
  • 168-018-02
  • 168-018-03

For years, Maggie would suddenly spring up from her snooze and demand to be let outside at once, for unknown dog reasons. When she died at 13 1/2 —antique for a Doberman—we were suddenly confronted with a herd of at least six does and a buck or to two that traveled our neighborhood, sampling at will. Besides the beans, beets, and tomato plants, we lost onions, garlic, strawberry plants, and even hot chilies, to blatant deer nibbling. They also ate the fruit trees and blueberry bushes. It became clear the old dog had, in fact, been doing her job in keeping such critters away.

I had been searching over the years for how to keep deer out of the garden. I need a perfect wonder fence, one that would solve the problem of deer and other varmints making off with the actual fruits of our labor. Every sample design I found had more disadvantages than advantages. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Forestry Service both had a wonderful, nearly indestructible design. However, these violated several of my requirements. I wanted to build the most effective fence, at the lowest cost, with the least amount of labor— that wasn't ugly . Based upon my research over the years, and adding a few modifications of my own. I finally managed to come up with a winner. It has stood the last three years against the combined efforts of rabbits, deer, dogs and cats, possum, raccoons, wild turkeys, pheasant, and the neighbors' chickens and goats.

Our garden spot is 50' by 50', giving us 2,500 square feet. This spot, along with multiple berry beds and fruit trees, produces enough to last the two of us through a year. We have seen what happens if the garden is left without protection. We have also seen the ugly home-construction fences that blight the countryside year-round. My fence can be taken down in about an hour at the end of the season and stored in a space smaller than a wheelbarrow. It goes up after final tilling in the spring in about an hour or two. If you site your posts properly, they can stay in the ground year round.

Initial cost is around $200 if you have to buy the charger. Often times, used units hide out at yard sales and junk shops. You can reconfigure the shape of the fence, and the replacement cost in materials and labor is minimal. The second year, I spent about $5, and the third year, due to upgraded redesigns, I had to add another roll of galvanized ( not aluminum) wire and some extra insulators, for a total of under $20. You can modify my design to your own configuration, as long as you heed a few basics. Shopping around for the best prices is part of the fun. (See sidebar for a list of supplies and costs.)

Garden Fencing Supplies

The secret of the fence design lies in the incorporation of a fundamental understanding of just how clever deer can be. While deer can jump amazingly high, or amazingly far, they cannot jump both far and high at the same time. While my fence is only about 6 1 / 2 tall, the angle of the support posts make it effectively much higher, as the offset width between top and bottom strand is about 3'. When they are close to the lower wire, the top wire is directly overhead and they cannot clear the top wire. When they are in position to jump the top wire, they are too far away to clear the bottom on the inside. They will not jump blindly. I found I could fake them out if I extended a white fiberglass rod about 2' above the middle, between the corner posts. They seemed to consider the height increased by that amount. One of the secrets is to make it appear that your fence is more of a barrier than it actually is.

Without the electrical charger, this design a doomed to failure sooner or later. Without the necessary visual guides, eventually some buck will knock a wire or two down and happily graze on your goodies. The proper "post-set" is a vertical short post and an angled long post. These have to be connected together to stabilize each other. The 6' post is driven to 4'; the 10' is inserted about 3' toward the opposite corner post, then driven in at a 45° angle. There is about 3' angling out above the vertical post.

Sean Krause
6/21/2010 8:09:03 AM

Where can we see better photos of this fence???

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