The Continuing Saga of Keeping Critters Out of the Garden


Unappealing white poly tape in the author’s garden (2009)

For almost five years my solar-powered electric fence has done an awesome job of keeping the deer out of my garden though a physical barrier was needed to keep out Mr. Rabbit. Green plastic mesh fencing that was 3’ high did the trick for many years.

Plastic mesh fence inside of five strands of poly wire (2009)

In 2016, my frustrations were more about the increasing amount of shade cast on my veggies by the neighbor’s growing evergreen trees. The plastic mesh fencing got so brittle that the rabbits were breaking right through. The poly wire for the electric fence was broken in several places due to downed tree limbs causing the whole fence to cease functioning. Being lazy, I opted for just adding the “Scarecrow,” a motion activated sprinkler. Mr. Scarecrow was a hard worker, providing dual services: scaring away varmints while watering the garden. But as the plants grew, the spray couldn’t reach through the plant material to all corners of the space and every swaying tomato branch set it off. The ground got so saturated that Mr. Scarecrow just flopped over and writhed and the deer took total advantage of the situation.

Now it is 2017. Evaluation time. Just how much pleasure do I get out of having a vegetable garden? Do I get enough vegetables and bonding-with-nature therapy to devise a new plan this year? While I do love a good project, I was kinda done. But the alternative of a more radical change was a bigger challenge than I cared to take on. With encouragement from my husband, I decided to give it another try.

I replaced the plastic mesh with chicken wire fencing coated with green plastic. It is about 2’ high. I rehung two strands of the poly wire electric fence instead of five. This configuration is actually much more visually appealing than the first couple of iterations of the fence. While it doesn’t keep out squirrels or birds, it has done a good job of keeping out the rabbits and deer. So far this year the biggest threat was from a large section of a neighbor’s white pine that split off and was hovering dangerously over the garden.

I even have some crude video of two deer walking right past the garden two nights ago.

What works to keep deer out of your garden?

I’ve written about my trials with keeping the critters out of my vegetable garden in the past:

Find additional advice on dealing with nuisance wildlife in the garden, on the Home & Garden Information website.

By Ria Malloy, Assistant Program Director, Home & Garden Information Center

7 Comments on “The Continuing Saga of Keeping Critters Out of the Garden

  1. My approach to the deer issue this year has been to chase the deer out of my property, and a bit farther, while making angry mountain lion-like noises. It seems to work, and I get a bit of exercise and work on my acting skills to boot! Neighbors seem to find this entertaining, but thus far are unwilling to pay a fee for my performances. The deer are inherently timid and seem to have long memories about threats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure your neighbors are enjoying your antics! Unfortunately, the deer in my neighborhood don’t adhere to a schedule that has them eating only when I’m home from work and happen to be looking at the garden. The nerve! I’d love to have a laugh track from the creepy clown doll my mom used to scare kids. (That still kinda freaks me out!) I’d try to connect it to a motion sensor to scare away the deer any time of day or night. I would wager that the neighbors wouldn’t find that too entertaining though. Thanks for your comment. Ria


  2. While my neighbors removed all of the 30 to 40 foot white pines bordering my property, the crews dropped some branches on my 8 foot poly deer fence. Didn’t take long for the deer to find the entrance. In the process of repairing the poly fence, although the garden has already suffered significant damage.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a 12′ x 12′ vegetable garden in my front yard (very suburban community but with plenty of deer, rabbits and squirrels) with an 8′ fence around it from My family gave me the fence for Christmas the year after deer chewed down most of my tomatoes. The fence was very easy to install and I opted to use velcro strips on one side to make an ersatz gate (the fencing is held on by zip ties on the other sides). I had to add a 24″ coated chicken wire fence at the base to keep out rabbits and squirrels. So far this summer I have had no intrusions into the garden and my tomatoes are ripening unmolested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Eric, Is your fence made of poly mesh or metal? I’m glad to hear it is working for you. Have you had any pushback from your neighborhood? Some communities frown on food gardens in the front yard. Ria


    • I have two questions for Erik. Like you, I have my vegetable garden in my front yard because it’s the only place where I have sun. I’m about to surround it with deer fencing. I’ve used zip ties for the deer fencing I have in the back so I get that. But I’ve been completely stuck on making gates. I need two. They will be homemade and all I care about is function. How is your gate constructed and how does the velcro work? The second question is how does your 24″ chicken wire fence keep squirrels out? I’ve never seen anything stop a squirrel.


  4. The perimeter security has been breached! A baby rabbit penetrated the fortress this morning. I donned my best Farmer McGregor persona and chased it around the inside fence line a couple of times before it finally escaped. Not sure how it got in or where it actually got out. But it almost escaped several times by climbing up the chicken wire fence. I’ll have to keep a closer watch. Ria


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