13 Ways To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden
If you live in an area with lots of deer (like I do), then you know how much damage they can do to your garden. One day you have Hostas, the next you don’t! Learn how to keep deer away with these tips that will keep them from eating your plants and vegetable gardens.
I live in an area of the country that has a lot of problems with deer.
And I happen to live in a house that backs on to a ravine. So I see deer on a fairly regular basis.
Despite this I have been able to avoid having any trouble with deer in my garden, even though lots of my neighbors complain about them all the time. (Some have even gone so far as to try hunting them in that ravine behind my house!)
Pro Tip: Combining more than one of these deer proofing approaches is the secret to success!
1. Plant deer resistant plants
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There are very few plants that are totally deer proof. If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat pretty much anything. (And apparently they really like Hibiscus!)
However there are some general characteristics of plants that are less likely to be eaten:
- Plants with prickly foliage or brambles (eg. globe thistle)
- Plants with furry leaves (eg. Lamb’s Ears)
- Plants with strong scents or tastes (eg. rosemary and garlic). Deer rely on their sense of smell and will avoid plants that are too pungent.
- Plants that are poisonous or have really thick sap (eg. Jack in the Pulpit). The poisonous plants are the only ones that deer will not eat even if they are hungry. Although if you are going to plant these, you do need to make sure that your pets won’t eat them either.
You can find some ideas on our list of deer-resistant shade plants.
Pro Tip: To check the deer resistance rating of a specific plant, look it up on the deer resistant plant list from Rutgers University.
2. Use mass planting
Another option is mass planting the plants that deer do like to eat.
This won’t prevent the deer from browsing them, but allows you to still have some flowers left after they’re finished.
The idea is, instead of just planting one Hydrangea (that would get devoured), grow a few of the same Hydrangea in one spot. The deer will eat the plants on the outside of the group but often won’t go out of their way to get to the ones in the middle.
So you’ll still have some blooms to look at.
3. Design flower beds with plant blocking
Plant blocking combines the last two points to keep the deer from eating your plants: Mass plant some flowers or vegetables that deer like, and then surround them with deer-resistant plants.
As an example, to keep the deer from eating your Hostas, surround them with a border of ferns (which most deer don’t like).
Make sure the border plants are close enough together to form a kind of hedge and large enough to make it difficult for the deer to reach over them.
Unless they are really hungry, the deer will often move on to find easier-to-reach edibles that they enjoy.
4. Install a tall fence
If you really want to prevent deer from getting into your garden, a tall fence may be your best bet.
I have a 6-foot high fence surrounding my entire backyard. It was originally built to keep my dog in the yard (and provide some privacy), but it is also a pretty good deer deterrent.
However, I have read that if a deer is motivated to get into your garden, a 6-foot fence isn’t high enough. They can jump right over.
To really be deer proof, a fence needs to be at least 8 feet tall, and 12 feet high would be better.
Someone suggested putting up barbed wire, or installing an electric fence on top of a standard 5 to 6 foot wooden fence to create a better barrier. While I’m sure these would help, it sounds a bit drastic to me. And I think it would feel like my garden was inside a prison 🙂
I do like this idea though: Making the fence higher by installing planters across the top.
Of course, you might want to pick deer resistant plants to put outside the fence if you don’t want to attract too much deer attention to your yard.
5. Or build a solid fence
Fence styles that deer cannot see through don’t have to be as tall as a see-through style of fence (such as a split rail fence).
The deer aren’t as likely to jump into an area when they can’t see what they are getting into.
6. Plant trees and shrubs inside the fence
To discourage deer from jumping over a shorter fence plant tall and wide trees and shrubs along the inside of it.
If they can’t see a clear landing area, the deer won’t attempt the jump.
It also increases the width that they have to jump across, so it’s somewhat like having a double fence, without having to build a second fence.
The bushes don’t all have to be planted in a straight line or be the same kind of shrubs.
In my case, I created garden beds all along the inside of the fence and planted many different kinds of plants…ornamental grasses, blue junipers, Magnolia bushes, Daphne, Hydrangeas, and Japanese Maples, just to name a few. As you can see from the picture, the fence is hardly visible through all of the foliage!
Using evergreens and other plants that hold their shape in the winter is particularly useful for a deer proof garden, because they provide all year coverage.
You can also plant bushes outside the fence…especially if they are deer resistant species. I have some help from nature in this area. There are patches of very prickly wild blackberries that grow on the edge of the ravine. Although the plants themselves are a nuisance (they spread all over the place and scratch like crazy!), I’m sure they help to prevent the deer from getting too close.
7. Put up a double fence
Another option is to build a double fence (two fences that are 3 to 5 feet apart).
This allows you to have a shorter fences that will still keep the deer out because the deer won’t try to jump over them if the distance they have to cover is too wide.
8. Create a rock garden perimeter
The next way to deter deer from your flower beds is to create a rock garden around the perimeter of your yard. (You’ll see this tactic used at a lot of modern zoos to keep the animals in their enclosures.)
Deer avoid rocky areas, so surrounding your garden with a wide rock garden can be a good way to keep them at bay.
To make this work best, vary the size of the rocks. That way there isn’t too much flat area that the deer can walk across.
You could also combine a rock garden with a fence so that the deer don’t have a clear landing area.
This is what I unintentionally did across the back of my yard. When I first moved into my house and was creating garden beds, I dug a lot of rocks out of the ground. They all got piled along the inside of the fence where I intended to (but never did) create a terraced rock garden.
9. Spray Liquid Fence
If you don’t have the option of putting up a fence to prevent the deer from coming in, you can try using a deer repellent like Liquid Fence (available on Amazon*).
I haven’t used this myself, but my neighbors have and they say it really works. (I am thinking about getting some to keep the rabbits out of my yard!)
Spray Liquid Fence (or another chemical deer repellent) on and around the plants you want to prevent the deer from eating. The scent will keep them away.
The odor is enough to stop them, so they don’t have to eat your flowers and shrubs to find out they don’t like it.
A couple of notes: Liquid Fence smells REALLY bad (something like rotten eggs) when it is first sprayed, and you do need to re-apply it periodically for it to keep working.
10. Let your dogs out
If you happen to have a dog like I do, letting them out in the yard does help to protect your garden from deer.
I installed a dog door out to my fenced backyard. Which again was intended for the convenience of the dog. But also means he can come and go as he pleases.
When he was younger, I could always tell when deer were getting close to the back fence because he would make a mad dash out the dog door, run straight to the back of the garden and start barking. The deer never stayed very long!
And he’s a cocker spaniel…so not exactly a vicious guard dog.
Pro Tip: In order to be effective, the dogs need to be able to get close to where the deer are. The deer will learn quickly if a dog is on a tether or in a run that prevents him from reaching them.
11. Sprinkle Irish Spring soap
Another option for keeping deer out of your garden without a fence is Irish Spring soap. (I haven’t tried this, but I hear that it works really well!)
Deer don’t like the “fresh clean” smell of Irish Spring (another one of those “sense of smell” deterrents).
Shave slices off the bar of soap and sprinkle them around the areas you want to keep the deer out of. Then repeat whenever the soap has dissolved.
You can also try drilling holes in the middle of the soap and hanging it from branches or posts around your garden beds.
Other home remedies that have a strong scent such as hot pepper and garlic may also work. But you’ll need to refresh them frequently.
12. Use motion activation
To scare the deer away, try motion activated devices that create a startling noise, movement or bright light.
Some examples that can work are motion activated sprinklers, flood lights or animated Halloween props.
Just make sure you’re not bothering the neighbors as much as the deer 🙂
Pro Tip: Deer will get used to these deterrents over time. So you will occasionally have to swap them out for something different in order for this strategy to keep working.
13. Surround the garden with fishing line
Surrounding your flower beds, vegetable gardens and fruit trees with fishing line is another way to keep deer away.
The idea with this is that the deer can’t see the clear line and get startled by it when they hit it.
To make it effective, the fishing line should be installed at two or three different heights and pulled tight around wood or metal posts that are firmly anchored in the ground. Otherwise, the deer may go right through it.
I haven’t considered trying this one because I’m always afraid the deer will get tangled in the line. While I don’t want them eating my garden, I’m not trying to hurt them.
Other gardening ideas you might like
- Deer resistant plants for shade
- Evergreen shrubs for shade
- Evergreen shrubs for full sun
- Bushes to grow under trees
Do you have any other suggestions for how to keep deer out of your garden? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on February 13, 2018 but was updated with new content on June 24, 2022.
Thanks for those great tips! We have a great apple tree and deer can smell apples 1 mile away. We are on a serious mission to keep them out mainly because we are in Iowa and I don’t want to risk deer ticks because I have grandchildren!! Wish I could use all of your ideas!
Thanks, Pat! I can only imagine what a feast deer would have on apples. Good luck with keeping them out of your yard! If you find any other options that work well for deterring them, I would love to know what they are 🙂
My neighbor saves his cigar butts for me to put around my plants that deer like. He smokes 4-5 a day so he can give me a good sized bag pretty regularly. It seems to work! My hostas which previously got eaten the day after they were planted are coming back. They are all up to 1/4- 1/2 their ideal size. We do use rabbit and dear spray once a month and minorgunite.
Thanks for the tip, Jody! I haven’t heard of using cigar butts before 🙂
Came across your blog on Pinterest. Your info on keeping deer out of the gardens are very helpful. I’m tired of spending money on dessert for the wild things!! This year, we’ll be planting more deer-resistant plants, evergreens, ornamental grasses and possibly a rock garden barrier as well. Thanks so much for the info. Well written and beautiful photos.
Thanks, Sandra! I’m glad you found the post helpful…good luck with keeping the deer out of your garden 🙂
Good idea… except that the deer are EATING all our “deer resistant plants” right along with the others! And we have mostly deer-resistant plants in our garden… 🙁
Hi Stacy…it seems like deer in different parts of the country like different things 🙂 And if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat pretty much anything.
Marigolds! I heard that deer do not like the smell of marigolds and my garden is close to the woods. I tried this last year and it worked amazingly well! I planted marigolds (the darker orange and yellow have the strongest deer repellent smell) around the perimeter of my garden beds. Although I went a little overboard on the amount I did not have any issues with the deer touching anything in my gardens. My neighbors however did not have a good year as the deer ate most of their plants, so it was not a lack of deer around, it was the marigolds!
Thanks for the suggestion, Nikki! I’ll have to add marigolds to my plant shopping list 🙂
Nikki, I have a major deer problem. In the past my marigolds were trampled, but never eaten. Last night one of my largest marigolds was eaten. Oh vey. If they’re hungry enough…. Basil was never eaten until this year. I think due to the drought (I’m in California) and over population they are extremely hungry.
My grandparents lived in the redwoods and always had gardens they would go to the local barber shop collect hair and put it around the gardens on the deer could smell humans my grandfather would also and this is gross pee around the gardens and that kept the deer out
Thanks for the suggestions, Suzan! It’s great to hear some ideas that are free 🙂
When I faithfully spray urine around my hostas, the deer won’t eat them. The problem is staying on top of the process. It has to be renewed often especially when it rains. I’ve also heard cayenne pepper works.
I saw your article about deer fences. I have built fences for years & have built many a fence to keep deer out ,but we were ask ; how high can a deer jump? EVER HOW HIGH IT NEEDS TO. THE BEST WAY I KNOW OF BUILDING A DEER PROOF FENCE IC TO BUILD IT WITH THE TOP 2-3 FEET SLOPING OUTWARD BECAUSE IT CONFUSES THEM ON THE DISTANCE.
Thanks for the fence suggestion, Marshall! Sounds like a great idea 🙂
Deer are jumping our fence of vegetables. I am going to try the Irish Spring soap. They’ve eaten quite a few of our plants already.
I hope the Irish Spring works for you! Good luck with it 🙂
I have used Irish spring soap for years with great success. Rubbing the bar of soap up and down the trees surrounding my acre is my first lineof defense. Then I shave it on the hostas, tulips and rub it on the branches of the Rhoadendrums. Another deterent is to use Dollar Store dryer sheets cut up in small pieces around the plants and shrubs. Depending on the amount of rain, the process may need repeating.
Thanks for the suggestions, Catherine!
Human urine does work to keep deers and other varmints out the garden.
Thanks for the tip, Pat!
Deer love roses. I planted lavender around my roses and hydrangeas. It works well. The deer don’t want that scent on them because they can be tracked by predators. Where I can’t plant lavender, I bought a motion activated wolf at Halloween time that howls and moves its head. I will be buying more motion activated figures this Halloween. I also play a radio at night on the front and back porches. I can’t have a fence. These methods are 90% effective.
Thanks, Sheryl…Those are some great ideas! I may have to look into one of those motion activated figures 🙂
We have an overpopulation of deer. No hunting here, and in the winter food is no readily available.
Deer eat everything, camellias, azaleas, tractor seat plant, soft touch holly, zinnias, lantana, geranium, ferns, spikes plant, coneflowers, liatris, new growth on prickly holly, Japanese maple, etc., etc.
I can’t have a regular fence, so I use electric fence. We use small green posts and spray yellow insulators green as well. Cuts the visibility.
I spray Bobbex around outside the fence and all the goodies inside the fence. If they decide to jump in, they won’t like what they find. In early summer spray is required almost weekly as plants are growing new foliage. Later in the summer, 2 to 3 weeks. Winter monthly except late December through early February here in zone 8. Deer are particularly hungry during that time and will eat anything—ferns. red bud and dogwood trees, Japanese maples, twigs of most any shrub. Until we fenced AND sprayed I never saw my azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas bloom.
However I have never had them eat crepe myrtle, caryopteris, Mexican sage, peonies, palms, clump grasses, strong smelling herbs, artisema, monarda, daphne, hellebores, pawpaw, or elephant ears.
Irish spring didn’t work. Liquid fence worked briefly. Motion detector water sprayers work (can’t be used in winter). Ultrasound didn’t help.
Right now it’s a contest between the deer and me. However, I have a feeling the deer will eventually outlast me.
Good luck gardeners.
Here in Ireland, we never seem to be bothered by deer, luckily they stay in wooded areas, and in some parks, where they are tended to. Slugs are our biggest problem,I have gone into my garden after dark to get rid of some, it may be due to our damp climate, but they can destroy some plants also, especially hostas.
Your articles are always very interesting so thank you.
Thank you for this informative article on Deer. I came home late yesterday and saw four deer, three regulars and a new baby. They indeed will taste anything. I will buy some deer repellant through your site. Again thank you. Judee
Thanks, Judee! Good luck with keeping the deer out of your yard 🙂
I have some friends who have always had great gardens….and they said to collect hair cuttings and scatter weekly to keep any scavengers out! Also, if you collect your urine(YUK!) , and sprinkle around perimeter of garden, it keeps bears away!
Thanks for the tips, Deborah! I’m thankful I don’t have to resort to using urine, but I have also heard that it works quite well.
This was a total waste of my reading time. Seriously??? Extremely unrealistic & unreasonable! Perhaps something like this shouldn’t come when one simply asks “hacks on keeping deer out of a garden”! Build a 6ft fence??? Really? Then this person actually suggested to build a double fence! Ok sure! I’ll get right to it! I’ll go from gardener to brick 🧱 layer right away. Or the suggestion to build rocks around your garden! Oh yeah hiring a dump truck to bring rocks sounds pretty easy a lightweight! Let’s just make rock gardens & not bother asking for hacks. Geez🤦🏻♀️! I think I’ll try 2 out of the other 20 unrealistic ideas. This was comical at best ✌🏼
Hi Sandra…The article is intended to provide many different kinds of solutions so that you can pick the ones that work for you. (I never said they would all be easy, and I don’t have any control over how it shows up in search results…Pinterest or Google or wherever you searched is responsible for that.) So while you may think building a fence is unreasonable and unrealistic, there are many people who want to do that and need to know what kind of a fence will work. Since that’s not you, I would suggest looking at the easier to implement options like Liquid Fence, fishing wire and Irish Spring soap (rather than focusing on what you don’t want).
Well, THAT was rude! …. Perhaps not everyone gas the ability to erect a fence, this article is actually quite informative! For those of us with SERIOUS deer problems, we want to know what options we have. This article provides that. In addition, the replies from readers offer reasonable suggestions as well. But. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us. It DOES help us all to choose our words more carefully in future articles we may write, and to include a disclaimer or warning statement that these suggestions may not be for everyone. I hope you found YOUR best solution. Good luck to you.
I buy lots of pin wheels and plant them in the flower beds, especially the hostas. The movement sometimes scares the deer. This year I installed a wind chime in one area, and bells of Sarna in another. I have a motion detector light which I plan to install near my front porch /cottage garden.
An easy spray deer repellant that you can make yourself:
1/4 Murphy’s oil soap
12 oz. bottle of cheap hot sauce
Put in a blender and mix thoroughly
Add enough water to make one gallon.
Put in a sprayer and spray. Needs to be repeated about every three weeks.
Thanks for the tips, Ruth! It’s always good to hear what’s working for other people 🙂
Hello Wanda! Thanks for the helpful tips! I have 6+ rural acres. Though we’re in farming county, it seems that the local wildlife and pests prefer our garden-like landscaping over the crops! I’ve tried some deer repellent sprays, hanging soap (not Irish Spring though) from trees. Whirlies, twirlies, AND a 7ft fence! Still, they get in! They love my rises, grapes, and fruit trees the most! However, I have a bed just outside the fence with lists of tasty lilies and other flowers that they don’t touch. I believe that is because of the mint and lavender planted within! So, thanks to your article, I have some new things to try! Thank you! And thanks for your reader response too!
I’m glad you found it helpful, Christi! It sounds like you have some really persistent deer 🙂 Hopefully, some of these ideas will work for you.
The electric fence does mot harm the deer, it creates a hum and they stay away.
We have deer that bed down next to our house. It seems to me that I have seen something that looks like a nail bed that can be hidden under leaves & that discourages bedding down. Do anyone have any sources for something like this?
Hi Barbara…I haven’t heard of anything like that. You could try stringing fishing line around the area about 3 feet off the ground and see if that helps. It usually scares them away since they can’t see it, but will feel it when they brush up against it.
My dad used to hang bars of irish spring from the lower apple tree branches. They were “nose height” to the deer and they worked very well.
Hi Molly…thanks for the suggestion! That sounds like it would work quite well.
I tried the fishing line and it worked to some degree but it was only 6 lb. test and someone walked right through it. I will replace with heavier line. Only good for a small area though and of course, I can’t get inside either.