Bottom Line: Deer love to jump, but they hate talk radio. Use that knowledge.
They’re beautiful creatures, but if you have a garden, you already know that they’re all too happy to turn your carefully tended greenery into nubs and stalks. These days, there’s a more alarming concern—white-tailed deer in particular carry the ticks that spread Lyme disease and other illnesses.
Often, you’ll get a summer respite—deer are busy giving birth and raising young. But they’ll return in force in fall, winter, and especially in early spring, when wild food is scarcer and gardens helpfully provide new growth. If deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat almost anything, even “deer-resistant” plants.
So let’s keep deer and their ticks out of your yard and garden. Here are the best methods to discourage them from coming into your yard—plus one sure-fire (but expensive) approach that will keep deer out of your property entirely.
If your deer problem isn’t severe, start with one or more of these low-tech deterrents. To save money, you may want to start with these home-made ones first to see if they work. Tip: For the smelly and bad-tasting ones, remember that a good rain rinses them away, so you’ll have to reapply. Here are a few…
Some relatively inexpensive approaches…
If you’ve exhausted the above options and deer damage hasn’t been reduced to a tolerable level, a barrier is your last—and best—resort. In fact, a “deer fence” is widely acknowledged to be the only thing that completely keeps them out of your yard and garden.
But not just any fence. A deer fence is not any standard wooden or chain-link fence. While it might be made of such materials, it must be substantial and sturdy. It’s more expensive than standard fences, too. Two key factors…
Another approach is to erect a double fence, that is, two parallel fences close together (three or four feet apart). The reason is that deer don’t broad-jump. Such fences can be shorter (eight to 10 feet high) and still be effective.)
If you have a severe deer problem, consider setting a fence at a 45-degree angle —it doesn’t matter whether it’s facing toward your yard or away from it. Lay some or all of it on the ground—deer don’t like to get their hooves snagged. They will check it out gingerly and decide it’s not worth a try. Both options look odd, but this is war!
Last but not least, you can install the electric fencing systems that farmers and orchardists use. These are available in farm-supply stores and online. You can hire someone to set it up for you.
Final tip: No matter what kind of fence you decide to install, it’s smart to set it up early in the fall or early in the gardening year—before damage happens and before the deer are certain there’s good food inside.
Even if you don’t ban deer from your property entirely, you can minimize your tick risk by making your yard less hospitable to ticks themselves. Ticks prefer cool, damp, shady spots such as the edges of woods, brushy areas, woodpiles and tall grass. Their least favorite habitats are sunny open areas. Best defense: Keep your lawn mowed, and prune or clear out your yard to let in light and air.
One plant in particular has been identified as a haven for deer ticks—Japanese barberry. It’s planted for hedges, and thanks to birds spreading the berries, it has become invasive in parks, vacant lots, and wooded areas. If you have any in or near your yard, get rid of it.