June 18, 2014

Of Deer, Dogs, & Gardens

In my "Around The Homestead" post, I showed you our latest outdoor project, privacy fence for the side yard, or "bird garden" as we call it on our Master Plan.  This fence was actually preparatory to the main event, fencing the garden. For those working toward self-sufficiency, all aspects of food automatically become a top priority. There are a lot of things we can do without, but food isn't one of them. Protecting the garden is a must! Besides insects and disease, we have two other garden predators - deer and dogs.

I frequently mention deer and show you photos of deer tracks, because they eat things like sweet potato vines, beet tops, peas, green beans, etc. I've tried a couple of things to keep them away, a scarecrow deer, a solar flashing LED light thingy, and finally Deer B Gon.

The Predator Guard works fairly well. I bought two and placed them facing in opposite directions about 4 feet off the ground, as recommended for deer. Customer reviews are mixed on this as it seems to depend on the deer! For us, I'd say it's decreased deer damage but not stopped it.

The Deer B Gon is a plant spray formulated from putrescent eggs. If you've ever smelled a rotten egg then you know it will deter anybody. It also contains cinnamon and clove oils for "no stink" application. It's applied about once a month and seems to work. Even though the ingredients can be considered "natural," I'm not particularly thrilled about supporting one of the big chemical companies, nor about having to be dependent on continually buying a product, any product, nor on having another container to discard.

The dogs don't eat anything, but they dig and do their business in the garden beds without regard to what's growing.

Photo take last January of dog prints I found in the garden

The only answer we could come up for all this was to fence the garden. Fencing the side yard and the garden have been on the Master Plan, but like every homesteader, we have a to-do list a mile long. And it seems to get longer as the years go by rather than shorter. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of discussion to figure out what's next. Having goals and priorities really helps here. Then sometimes it's circumstance that brings a project to the forefront. Such was the case here.

We started by putting up the rest of the privacy fence, which I showed you
previously. We've had the panels for awhile but needed to get them
out of the old barn so we can tear it down to make way for the new one.

I cut the path, then Dan ran welded wire fencing off the last panel. 

At the top of the garden there will be a gate, wide enough for Dan
to bring in the walk-behind tractor. The gate is yet to be built.

We wanted to make the front a little more aesthetic than welded wire, so
Dan made a four rail fence using 4x4s and decking planks (cheaper than
1x6s.) Welded wire fencing is stapled to the back of the posts and rails.

A wider drive through gate goes in at the bottom. Both gates are still to be built.

There's just enough room to drive a vehicle or equipment back through the 2nd
gate you see in the distance, such as the time we had to dig a new drainfield.

Those of you familiar with the damage deer can do to gardens will be quick to point out that ours is not a tall enough fence for deer. This is true. The 8 to 10 foot recommended fencing was not within our price range. What is in our favor is the hedge and shrubbery on the sides. Also the ridge in the front raises the 5-foot rail fence by two feet on the highest side of the ridge. My elderberry and hawthorne bushes on the lower side add an additional barricade.

I like that it defines the garden area. Still to do are the two gates, and then this project about finishes up fencing our perimeter.


Unknown said...

Gosh, that list really is never ending. The fencing looks neat and practical. You have both done a great job as always. My only garden predator is my own Miss Tilly. Im having to fence in all the lower beds so she cant "play" with the veggies. If i was back home (where my family live)there would be a myriad of wildlife, mostly kangaroos,foxes,rabbits, possums, wild pigs to contend with.

Dawn said...

very nice tidy fencing, its something that is already on our list, although we have perimeter livestock fencing in place, we will just have the job of fencing in smaler areas. We have been lucky and asked the owners to place a long line of livestock fencing down the length of the land dividing it up for us, and on our last trip up there the other week end it was done.

Harry Flashman said...

The more you build the more there is to keep up. Some of my projects, on which I lavished much time and money have been swallowed up by the forest. Others have worked out. As I get older it gets harder to keep everything in top condition. I wonder if it will wind up looking like a Mayan city one day.

Leigh said...

Lynda, wow, your family certainly does have the wildlife to contend with. We have foxes, rabbits, and possums too (although a different type), but so far none of these have bothered the garden! Rabbits can do a lot of damage, but the welded wire fence should prevent that in the future.

Dawn, how nice your neighbors put up that fence! We're still dividing into smaller areas too.

Harry, that's a fact. We've already got fencing repairs to do from previous fence projects! Love your image of a Mayan city in the forest. :)

Anonymous said...

That looks great Leigh! I am hoping by next spring to get fencing up in my area too.


Theresa said...

I know folks love to see the deer, but I'm with you, can't stand them anywhere near the garden. The water scarecrow has worked here, that and spraying terrible stinky Deer-B-Gone but in the end, when it gets down to little browse left, they will eat what they have to and only a very high fence is deer proof. No possums up here though, too high in elevation for them,but skunk,fox,raccoon,bobcat/lynx, coyote, weasels, and cougar all roam about and there are now very small pockets of wolves repopulating some areas of south western Oregon. Great for the deer population.

Mama Pea said...

We are living in the midst of a huge deer population and simply could not garden without our 7' high deer fencing. (Some folks maintain a deer could jump even that height.) All the work you have done not only helps to keep deer and other wayward animals (!) out (or will as soon as your gates are in place), but looks so nice. But what a lot of initial work and, yes, there's the upkeep . . . which is all part of the life we've all chosen. Your piece of land has changed (and IS changing) so much from when you first purchased it. Wow!

Nina said...

I totally understand the never ending list. Ours is topsy turvy too as items on the list get switched in urgency due to all sorts of things.
We don't have a deer problem here, but bunnies and birds.. egad! There are tons of bunnies and they are almost impossible to keep out of the garden, even with fencing. We've chicken wire, with strong wire running the edges, keeping it taut, and still they get in underneath. They've gnawed the beans, the sprouting curcubits - all of them, and in the winter they chew the blueberries to the nubbins. The birds eat the berries and we're going to have to buy out the store of bird mesh, just to have any berries at all. Usually they get the gooseberries and sometimes the red currants, but this year they've also gotten the black currants, and strawberries. Last year I harvested exactly 3 blackberries so they birds had them last year as well.

anonymous said...

We have tons of deer and see one almost every day. We run clear fishing line from tree to tree-one line at about deer chest level and one a little higher. When they come into contact with something they can't see, they bolt the other direction. We haven't had any problem with damage in our garden or orchard, we just have to go replace snapped fishing line from time to time.

Woolly Bits said...

we have tons of stones in the ground - but on the plus side they do make great walls (big effort to build them though)... they wouldn't keep a determined dog out, but apparently the dogs around are too lazy to investigate our boring garden:) and we are extremely lucky - we have no deer here! foxes we have and rabbits, too - but in my experience it is next to impossible to keep rabbits out, if they do want to get in. if all else fails - they can dig under most fences:( a terrier might be the ideal deterrent - as long as they don't start digging in the garden:)so far I've managed to keep damage down by putting low poly or net tunnels over young, tender plants - but of course on your scale that would be next to impossible! I hope you'll manage to keep the "pests" out - it's so disappointing to work hard and have everything destroyed over night:(

Renee Nefe said...

I could be wrong, but I thought that the deer wouldn't jump a fence when they don't know what's on the other side. However, I did notice out by our voice teacher's place where a homeowner had added height to their wire fencing by attaching poles and then yellow plastic string. The extra fencing goes up another foot and a half. I don't know how effective this is, but I do know the deer are heavy in that area as we see them frequently. While we haven't had any deer in the back yard (6ft privacy fence) they do come into my neighbor's yard and into our front yard. buggars! We also noticed some crows trying to nest near us yesterday. Hopefully they changed their mind after being chased by my guard dog.

Leigh said...

Stephanie, I don't envy you starting at the beginning! Still, in spite of the expense and labor, good fences are well worth it.

Theresa, good to hear from you! There's always a critter to be aware of no matter where we are, isn't there? I have to say I get annoyed at our deer because even with tons of stuff to eat, plus two neighbors' gardens, they seem to prefer ours!

Mama Pea, actually it's amazing how much our land has changed. I should do a post comparing the year we moved here, 2009, with today!

Nina, sounds like you get a ton of rabbit damage. I'm thinking now that perhaps some of what I blamed on the deer was actually rabbits. I just never saw bunny tracks, only deer.

Anonymous, great tip, thanks! I will have to give that a try across the most deer accessible places.

Bettina, we'd love to have some of that stone. Covering does seem to help, but it is a lot of work. But then, so is working for naught when the critters get the crops!

Renee, I think the extension idea is doable for us. We need a guard dog too!

Kev Alviti said...

One of the first jobs we did here was to fence off the veg garden as rabbits would eat anything I'd put in the ground. It's worked well but I now need to upgrade the fence so it's (big) stock proof as well and that's taking a little longer! But at least I can grow my veggies and only worry about the pigeons and bugs.

Sandy Livesay said...


The fence looks great!!! You'll get to making gates soon enough. We had critters and humans helping themselves to our garden two years ago. That's when we had to put our fence, gate, and paddle lock on the garden. We have even placed a critter camera in the window to see if we have anyone or thing climbing the fence. So far nothing has climbed or dug under the fencing. Our fence is not 8 foot tall.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Rabbits and pigeons are our biggest problem crop-wise and we seem to spend as much time guarding the plants as planting and weeding them! We occasionally get badgers digging up worms, thus damaging plants. But deer are quite another matter. I honestly think we would give up if we had to defend this place against deer !

~Bettie said...

The fence looks very nice. I hope it will deter the deer. We have deer here, but they haven't discovered my garden....yet. They did get to our apples last Fall, however. We have a standard height (40 inch?)chain link fence surrounding our backyard (where the garden, apple & pear trees are). I am trying to figure a way to add some sort of extension along the top. I have PVC pipes bent over the veggie beds to drape bird netting over, thinking maybe this will deter the deer if they do jump the fence. But, also the netting will (hopefully) keep out bunnies, birds and free-ranging chickens once we have some. Eventually, I'd like to install fencing around our entire property, but with trees covering most of it, it'll be a huge chore just finding the property lines!

Maura said...

We also have problems with deer eating my gardens... We've found that with the deer here (Colorado, mule deer) that 5-6' will keep them out if there is some kind of visual "header" running along the top of the fence. We've found that they jump over our 5" pasture fence (horse fencing, no header) but almost never jump into the back yard (5' chain link with metal pipe header). Wire isn't enough of a "header" but a 2x4 is...

We also use deer spray (called "Deer Stopper" here) made from rotten eggs... For me, one of the smells of summer is the smell of rotten eggs, cloves etc. :)

Maura said...

Oh, and I LOVE your new fencing... There is nothing that looks as nice as a good, straight, well made, new fence!

Ellen and Adrian said...

We are trying to figure out the most efficient and cost effective way to start fencing key parts of our property - the current owners didn't really do much with the land, and claim they never had problems, but I have heard otherwise from residents of the area. Apparently we have not just deer, but elk (according to the cable guy), bears and cougars in our new part of the world. The lady at the fencing supply store said not to bother trying to fence against cougars, given their ability to climb and jump, and then suggested baiting electric net fencing with sardines, should we see or hear of larger predators in the area. Anything touching the fence to taste the food will get a *real* jolt. She's seen it work more than once on curious bears, and is 30 minutes away from our property. It's hard to try and anticipate what and where you will need fencing and gates in the future - given that we may very well change our minds about usage - but for now we are simply trying to make sure our immediate yard will be secure for ourselves at night, and for the farm dogs we intend to adopt from the SPCA as soon as we have a true enclosure to make sure *they* don't go wandering off onto someone else's property, causing trouble. Electric net fencing can be used in many ways in the future, and it will immediately offer protection for our meat rabbits and beehives next week!

Unknown said...

I just discovered this blog about a week ago and have to say that I am hooked! It's taken me this long to read through all 5 years worth of entries but now I'm not sure how I'm going to wait for new posts! Oh well, I love your blog, want your book, and look forward to keeping up with your future posts in real time!

Anonymous said...

We're lucky not to have too many predators beyond the odd rabbit, a local possum and her baby (who have caused no damaget hat we know of) and the chooks when they go where they shouldn't. The main predators in my garden are my kids though. No strawberry or carrot is safe when they are around. ;)
Your fences look great and are well thought out too.

Leigh said...

Kev, from the other comments I think you need to share the secret of your rabbit proof fence!

Sandy, thanks! It would be tough to have humans helping themselves! We've had folks stop by and ask, but never help themselves without asking! Good idea about the critter camera.

Gill, seems like everyone has garden predator trouble no matter where they live in the world!

Bettie, thanks! Seems like fencing is an ongoing project and challenge for a lot of us. Sounds like your PVC idea just might work.

Maura, thank you for that! Both the compliment and the header idea. The lower gate is the one area where deer might try to jump, so it might be a good place to give that a try.

Ellen and Adrian, sounds like you've got the ultimate critter challenge. But, protecting gardens and critters is always a huge concern and you're right, it's hard to anticipate how to address future problems.

Rachel, thank you so much! I'm amazed you read through my entire blog! I never considered us all that interesting, LOL. Your compliment though, is a real gift. I notice you don't have a blog, or I'd make a return visit. :)

Rabidlittlehippy, you are so fortunate! And kids can certainly be forgiven. :)

Unknown said...

I don't...just a reader! :) My husband and I are in the 'looking for land' phase. The urge to get started is consuming almost all of our thoughts. We have a 6 year old daughter who we want on a farm young enough to 'grow up on a farm' and in the lifestyle. DH grew up on a farm and currently is a farm manager (on someone ELSE'S land) and I've just always wanted that life. We've always had a garden and chickens but can you believe I'm doing my very first canning attempt this weekend?! I'm excited, just trying to decide what I should can first...all those beets or zucchini dill pickles...Anyways, have a great day!

Bill said...

Deer are a constant threat to us here and do a lot of damage. We've tried just about everything. I use electrified net fencing from Premier and it works (for now) because they're afraid of it. But it's expensive and I can't afford to fence in all our gardens (we have 18 of them). So I prioritize and fence out the things they like to eat the most. But now they eat everthing, sometimes just a few nibbles to ruin it. It is EXTREMELY frustrating and the biggest obstacle to our plans. Perhaps the only solution is to concentrate our operation into a smaller area and build a tall fence around it. Good luck with what you're doing and thanks for sharing all the great info!

Chris said...

I like how you've incorporated natural hedges with your fencing, so they work together as a deterrent.

Just a clever design. :)

Simply Handmade Farmhouse said...

Hello first time posting..I am new to your blog..looking forward to staying a while catching up on all the reading. Have a wonderful day.

Leigh said...

Rachel, I definitely appreciate it. Looking for land is a lot of fun and we learned a lot in the process!

Congratulations on your first canning session! I hope you did both beets and zucchini pickles. :)

Bill, sounds like you've got a real problem and it's unfortunate fencing is so expensive. I wonder how huge farm concerns manage, unless their GMO crops aren't palatable to deer, LOL

I'm thought about purchasing some of that electric netting, but mostly to keep our own critters out of corn if we subdivide our larger areas for growing.

Chris, that worked extremely well, didn't it? The back side is still a concern, because it uses the same fence as the field. Deer used to have a wallow in that field. OTOH, our neighbor told us yesterday that he found deer tracks in his garden. This is a first for him while we've been finding them regularly. I hate for "our" deer to become his problem, but in the end we all have the same predators.

Teresa, hello and welcome! I appreciate your taking time to leave a comment. :)

matty said...


Been a while since I have had time to come visit! So much going on at your farm! Isn't it fun? I was reading about your deer problems and want to share our solution.

We are using a product called "Plot Saver" which is a Kevlar strip (2") placed on fence posts (we use the cheapest ones, plastic, step in as they can be pulled up easily when we are done with a garden and want to plow) and then a deterrent (natural -- eggs and mint) is sprayed on the strip. It only has to be redone every 30 days or when there is a hard rain.

It has kept the dogs, cats, chickens, deer, groundhog, and any other varmit out of the garden. It costs $50 to start, because of the strip, but the deterrent is very inexpensive. And, the band lasts forever!

There is a website for the product if you want to check it out.

Good luck!

Leigh said...

Matty, good to hear from you! Thank you for that information. The strip definitely sounds like a better idea than simply spraying the plants. I wonder if I could simply put it on my fence.