HOW DO WE KEEP THE DEER FROM MUNCHING ON OUR BEAUTIFUL HARVEST AND NOT BREAK THE BUDGET?
This was the question posed at one of our summer meetings during 2012. Many suggestions were made but it seemed each had a significant drawback. For example, one community member thought an electric fence was the best way. But when the derecho hit just before the 4th of July, it knocked out power for up to two weeks in certain areas of the creek. Am I the only one who thinks that deer have a sixth sense about when the power is down so that they can go eat the tasty stuff?
Another suggestion was to make an egg mixture up and set it out until it smelled really, really bad. At that point, it was to be sprayed around the garden. But what happens when there is a big downpour that washes it all out. Would the garden be completely vulnerable at that point?
Someone suggested hanging Irish Spring soap along the perimeter of the garden. The scent apparently keeps the deer away. I pondered these options thinking: do I want to risk it all on one of these choices?
I settled on trying to find a way to build a barrier – one that was relatively inexpensive and movable. (Putting in a fence by digging post holes and filling them with concrete seemed too expensive and permanent). For about a year I kept a lookout for an idea that would work.
While visiting with a friend in North Carolina who keep her old Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening magazines stacked in a neat pile, I came across an idea that fit all my criteria:
- relatively inexpensive (about $125-$150. to fence in a garden area 50’ X 25’). and can be used for many years if properly cared for;
- it was easily movable so I wouldn’t exhaust the soil in same plot
- it could be put up with a minimum amount of tools and muscle
- not only would be keep out deer, but dogs and rabbits as well
For all the gardeners frustrated by deer incursions, here is what worked like a charm:
Materials: 10 24” pieces of ¼ “ rebar; 10 ten foot pieces of metal conduit; 150’ roll of chicken wire 4’ high; deer netting (100’ and 7’) you will need two of these and will have extra netting left; 150 ‘ of fishing line; twist ties, a few extra stakes (3-4’ high); hardware to screw in the top of the metal pole (available in the electrical section of hardware store). Having an 8’ step ladder available is very helpful.
How to set up the fence:
(1) Pound rebar into the ground at evenly spaced intervals leaving 12” above the ground.
(2) Fix hardware on top of metal conduit pole.
(3) Slide metal pole over rebar.
(4) Roll out chicken wire around the perimeter of the garden.
(5) Attach to poles with twist ties. (You may want to add 4’ stakes to make the chicken wire more stable).
(6) String the deer netting from the top of the metal conduit poles with fishing line and secure to the poles with more twist ties.
(The deer netting will overlap the chicken wire by about a foot so you can secure that too with twist ties. I left most of it loose making it easier to drop garden weeds on the outside of the fence. Throwing weeds over a 10’ barrier can be challenging.) This whole process took less than 2 hours with help from my husband and daughter. At the end of the season, it took less than an hour to take apart and put it away for the next growing season.
Though this was just the first year I used this method, it was highly successful. Our 4 dogs and their 4 friends never got in; The deer never breached the fencing (They did however munch on a sweet potato vine that scooted out the chicken wire. After that I was sure to train all the vines to remain within the fencing. ) The derecho wind that took down many trees within 100’ of the garden didn’t affect the fencing at all. Sunflowers grew tall on the outside of the fencing providing more stability as we went through the summer.
This system worked so well that I intend to put up a second fenced- in garden area in a very fertile field quite far away from the house. (This field has an added advantage of having an artesan well to provide water if we should have another significant dry spell.) The local deer hang out in this field so this has been the most challenging location to grow crops. I’ll provide an update and report at the end of the season on how this fencing method fared in a much more vulnerable area. If you try it and find adaptations that work well, please let me know.
If I can help answer questions about this fencing project, please contact Marcelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcelle St. Germain at Big Ugly, WV