Daphne Gooding- Grow Appalachia Big Ugly
Here on Big Ugly the most destructive pest is a mammal: deer. The deer can wipe out an entire garden in one day. There is no way to garden on Big Ugly Creek without effective deer control. Many people use an electric fence. To deter the deer you need at least five strands of fence and one has to be low. Deer like to go under stuff. Seems strange since they are such great jumpers, but they will go under a fence if possible. Other folks hang pie tins (actually aluminum) around so that the sound and the reflections scare the deer. We have also heard a lot of other home remedies: rotten eggs mixed with water and sprayed regularly (yum), human hair sweepings from a barber shop or beauty shop. One old farmer said he always surrounded the garden with human urine. But he added that his wife didn’t think that the neighbors appreciated it much.
So far I have used two methods that seem to work well. Marcelle has reported about her deer fencing idea which uses ten foot sections of electrical conduit as posts set up on re-bar driven into the ground. The fence bottom section is chicken wire and the upper part is deer netting. I must say that this method works very well. For smaller gardens this really can’t be beat and the components are re-useable year after year and can be moved. This method is not practical for a large area, however.
Last year I was pricing electric fencing components for a larger community garden. I have experience with electric fence because I have has horses and electric fence is the only way to effectively contain horses without a lot of expensive construction materials and maintenance. Because of the requirement for five strands, the electric fence was going to be costly, particularly since we were going to have to purchase most of the fence posts, rather than cut them ourselves. During my search for affordable deer protection, I found something called Nite Guard for protection against a wide range of destructive mammals and other predators: large cats, deer, wolves, coyotes, hawks and bears. These are little solar-powered units that flash a red light from dusk until dawn. They come on and switch off automatically. The animals perceive the flashing red light as the eyes of predators and don’t enter the garden. We bought a set and tested them. They worked well at night, but not in the daylight. The family owned company that sells Nite Guard also sells reflective tape with a holographic reflective pattern. The tape is hung around the garden. The reflective streamers deter the deer during the day with reflections and a crackling noise.
The Nite Guard folks state that deer are very difficult to control. Deer become accustomed to the Nite Guard and then have no fear of it. The solution is to move the Nite Guard units every few days. The suppliers suggest an easy way to make the Nite Guards mobile. Four Nite Guard units and a 100 foot roll of reflective tape cost a total of $100. This was a mere fraction of what electric fence costs since the charger alone for the fence was at least $150. Marcelle’s fence was 100% effective. I have one of those around my smaller garden patch. The Nite Guard was not 100% effective. I still got a bit of damage to my green beans. After the first episode, I figured that the deer were coming to water in the early morning after the flashing lights had gone off. I hung more reflective tape near the beans and there was no more damage.
Later in the season, the weeds and brush grew up around the uncultivated part of the big garden. Again I had a bit of damage to the beans. I don’t have a brush hog or a sickle bar mower so I just took my trusty machete and hacked a 10 foot wide open swatch around the garden. It looked to me like the deer were crawling underneath the brush into the garden. The Nite Guard units were at about 45-48 inches off the ground and were not being seen by the deer. Cutting the swatch of open area seems to have taken care of the problem. I will have to continue to keep it cut until harvest is complete and the cover crop is growing. Nite Guard is effective when properly managed. It is much more cost-effective and much less labor intensive than either Marcelle’s fencing system or any kind of electric fencing. I will definitely use it again.