Organic Deer Control for Your Garden

Keep deer away from your gardens without hurting them or using pesticides that hurt your garden

| January 2018

The Guide to Humane Critter Control (Cool Springs Press, 2017) by Theresa Rooney helps gardeners keep way pests and critters from their precious gardens safely and organically, as not to hurt the critter or garden. In the following excerpt, Rooney gives a few tips to help dissuade deer from your garden.

Deer are mostly crepuscular or nocturnal—active at dawn and dusk, though they will often be active all night as well. During the day, they usually reside in protected shady areas, bed down, and stay quiet. When we understand the times of day they are most active, we can be more aware and watch for them.

Deer and auto crashes are common and cause millions of dollars in insurance claims each year. Because of the closer interaction of deer and human communities we have also seen an increase in Lyme disease and other diseases. (Due also to a better understanding, diagnosis, and reporting of the disease.) Lyme is transmitted by the deer tick, now known as the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, which is found on the deer and in their territory.

Deer are herd animals that have lost most natural predators. We have taken over much of the places they used to live and they have graciously allowed us to do so and try to live with us. They find our manicured landscapes, filled with tasty plants and free of many predators—except cars—to be quite acceptable. We have made many of our neighborhoods perfect deer habitats.

Deer usually travel their territory on specific trails at specific times. They keep the same schedule most of the time, so if you can disrupt their daily visit to your yard or garden they may bypass your area and bother others instead.

If you know where they enter your property, consider adding a fence there. It can be a sturdy 8-foot-tall fence or it can be a simple 5- to 7-foot temporary fence of deer netting. This netting is monofilament line (like fishing line), usually black in color, with 3/4- to 1-inch squares. From a few feet away, it is not very visible. Since deer will not see it easily, they bump into it with their sensitive noses. Not seeing it clearly or being able to know what it is may be enough to cause them to change their route, as is the uncertainty of running into it on “their” path. They may also break through it but, because it is temporary, it can be put up again.

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