Backyard Deer Deterrents: the dirt on keeping deer out of your garden without breaking the bank.

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deer deterrent

Oat cover cropWe've worked up a multi-prong approach to keeping deer out of our garden.  First, dot the edges with homemade deer deterrents as the main line of defense, but keep your eyes open.  If you see a deer too close, take a potshot over its head and then add another deterrent in that spot.

This fall, I've added a third leg to the anti-deer campaign --- cover crops.  Fall and early winter are the worst times for deer damage in the garden since food sources in the woods largely disappear after the last acorn is consumed.  And while a summer deer visit just means that a leaf here and there is nipped, the smaller and slower growing winter garden can be completely defoliated in one night of deer gorging.  Cover crops give you a bit more wiggle room, since they are succulent and tasty at this time of year, so they attract the deer's attention before the beasts devour your beloved strawberry plants.  I noticed that during our two small deer incursions this fall, the plants that got eaten most were oats around the garden edges, which left me smiling instead of swearing.

Check out another one of Mark's homestead innovations --- our homemade chicken waterer that never spills or fills with poop.
Posted late Wednesday evening, November 24th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent

Homemade deer deterrentLast November, I killed my first deer.  It was one of the high points of the year, despite the fact that during the same twelve month period I got married and learned to take vacations.  Now that hunting season has come around again, I'm ashamed to say that the delicious taste of venison is not enough to tempt me to take up arms.  Why not?  Because, for the first autumn ever, our garden is 100% deer free.

A month ago, I saw the signs of an incursion on my daily patrol.  One of the three beets I managed to germinate during the late summer heat had been kicked out of the soil, its tops eaten off, and I followed the deer tracks to a bed of swiss chard that had been similarly defoliated.  The deer damage occurred right where I knew it would --- where one of last year's old-version deer deterrents had failed and was replaced by a deterrent with more of a bell-like chime than a metallic bang.  "Please make that one louder," I begged Mark, and he added in a metal bowl for the golf ball to strike.  I fired a few shots into the woods above where I heard a rustling, and the garden has been safe ever since.

Mustard greens

As a result, we're eating nearly completely from the garden still, despite it being two weeks 'til Thanksgiving.  The deer-free mustard greens are huge and sweet and there are so many that I barely seem to make a dent with my daily picking.  The Black-seeded Simpson and Bibb Lettuce make for daily salads, and our broccoli is sending out enough side shoots (after we picked the 10 inch wide main heads) that we eat broccoli once a week as well.  I took a look at the high prices of broccoli in the grocery store the other day and figure that our deer deterrents have probably saved us a couple of hundred dollars in product costs for the fall garden alone.  Victory sure tastes sweet!

Posted at lunch time on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
collage of rotisserie motors

Rotisserie motors are readily available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Expect to pay anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars for a small unit and upwards of 150 dollars for the big ones, which might power a super large moving deterrent for extreme deer predation.
rotisserie motor extrodinare

I've had this small one operating 24 hours a day for 2 weeks now.

Found it at a local Walmart. A recent visit reveals it might be a seasonal item.

hex key close up
The next thing you need is a large hex key. They usually come in a set, which helps make it easy to choose the size that fits your rotisserie motor shaft holder. I'll save those details for the next post.

Posted Wednesday evening, September 1st, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
backyard deer hunting

Everybody knows that the best and most effective backyard deer deterrent is a well placed bullet.

I know there's still a thing or two I could learn on how to convert a backyard deer into dinner, which has promted me to put WM. Hovey Smith's new book on the list of books I want to read.

You might have noticed from my last post our local library only had a juvenile book on the subject, and although it covered some interesting subjects in regards to deer behavior, it said nothing about how to shoot and dress out a deer. This strikes me as odd because deer hunting almost seems like a religion around here. Perhaps when I hunt down a copy of Backyard Deer Hunting I'll donate it to the library after Anna and I devour it.

Posted late Wednesday afternoon, August 11th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
Awesome deer drawing

I learned from reading Jim Arnosky's excellent juvenile book "All About Deer" a key element that must be fully understood by the back yard deer deterrent maker.

"A deer can swivel each of its ears around on its head to listen in two different directions at once."

This fact indicates that even the smallest garden could benefit by deploying at least two deterrents at each end of the protected area.

In my opinion the sound puts a deer in caution mode, but it's the movement that usually provokes bolting.

Posted late Wednesday evening, August 4th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
how to protect from rain and wind

One mistake to avoid in putting a do it yourself deer deterrent together is over protecting the transformer.

Those things generate a small amount of heat, which isn't an issue in the winter, but summer temperatures could cause a condensation problem.

The remedy is proper ventilation. Configure the plastic protective cover so that it allows air to flow in and out of the bottom while still keeping any rainfall out.

I've avoided any permanent enclosure because this project has demanded on the fly adjustments and repairs.

Posted Wednesday evening, July 21st, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
field of marigolds as deer deterrent

Any system that helps to deter deer could use a back up.

One such method I've been thinking of lately is a field of marigold flowers also known as Calendula Officinalis.

California poppies, bleeding hearts, calla lilies, and corn poppies all have been reported to help keep deer out of your garden.

It should be noted that just because a deer doesn't like something doesn't mean he or she will never partake of its forbidden flavor. Deer do seem to shy away from marigold flower smells, but if times are desperate they just might nibble on whatever they can get. It's these times that require some mechanical help in the form of a noise and motion contraption.

Posted Wednesday evening, July 14th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent

Deer damageWhile our garden is 80% better protected than last year, I have to admit that our foes got in a couple of times this month and nibbled on some beans, sweet potatoes, and strawberries.  Looking back over my notes, I noticed that the deer chomped on our garden at the exact same time last year.  I think the deer life cycle must involve shifting feeding strategies in mid summer as the wild foods lose their spring luster (especially when drought slows down growth in the woods.)  Now is the time to be hyper vigilant and stop deer damage before it starts.

On the other hand, I think at least half of this year's deer damage could have been prevented.  After seeing no deer activity at all for months, we got a bit lax and let some of our deer deterrents stop working for a few weeks.  Bad idea!  Mark's currently inventing a more dependable deterrent that won't get hung up or burn out its motor at inopportune moments to prevent this problem in the future.  Meanwhile, we're keeping an eye out for signs of deer so that we'll know when to upgrade our defenses.  It also seems to have helped to mow down a huge weedy patch at the edge of the garden where the deer could find cover.

Posted at midnight, July 9th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent

The video above describes what the advertising display industry calls a solar rocker motor.

It uses a tiny solar cell that self starts the motion and keeps swinging till the light is taken away.

I'm thinking this could easily be adapted to a small AAA battery for night operations. The company that sells them is currently out of stock and has no plans to build any more in the future, but you might find one in a small store moving some sort of advertisement back and forth. Offer the person behind the counter 20 bucks and see if you can't negotiate a deal to take it home for some back yard deer deterrent experiments of your own.

It's unclear if this is strong enough to create a banging sound, but the movement is worthy of more research.

Posted Wednesday afternoon, June 9th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent
weed obstruction notes

It's easy to become complacent in the fight to keep deer out of the garden area.

I highly recommend you never drop your guard no matter how well the mechanical deer deterrents work.

Last week I noticed how our most important deterrent had stopped swinging due to a rather larger weed blocking its path. It gave me unhappy flash backs of when I had a technical problem with one last year and before I knew what hit me a pair of deer were nibbling on part of the garden in broad day light!deer drawing

In my opinion the key is constant vigilance. Make a point to check on each one and note any changes in operation. Trim down the surrounding weeds to prevent any obstructing blockage.


It's a good idea to have a back up deterrent on hand for any problems you might encounter. This way you can minimize your possible down time which can be  a dangerous window of opportunity for the enemy. Once they break through and take their snack prize it's much harder to keep them out.

Posted at noon on Friday, May 28th, 2010 Tags: deer deterrent

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