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deer deterring perennials

 
Steve Nicolini
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I am creating a guild for a food forest right next to our driveway.  Fencing is probably not an option.  I was wondering if there were any thick perennials that either deter or feed deer and successfully keep them out of gardens?

It probably needs to be tall and thick, maybe thorny?
 
Susan Monroe
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Deer will eat practically anything that isn't outright poisonous.  And they can jump almost any fence made, for sure 12 feet, and possibly even 15 feet (http://www.invisible-deer-fence.com/info/deer_behavior_and_motives_1.htm).

How large is your garden?  Since you're in a rental, maybe not too large?  Because there is a way.  I've used it, and it works beautifully.  But people seriously doubt it, probably because it's just too simple.  But it does work, honest!

Get some 3' tall welded wire fencing, like the 2x4" mesh.  Lay it down flat on the ground around your garden area, leaving no gap in your perimeter.

That's it.  I said it was simple.  No posts, no clippy things, no holes, no concrete, no fighting big rocks.  Here's why it works:

1.  Deer are prey animals.  Predatory animals have both eyes looking forward (dogs, cats, raccoons, coyotes, bears, etc). Prey animals (horses, cows, deer) tend to have their eyes placed more to the sides of their heads.  While this is good for them to have a wider field of vision to see approaching predators, it does have some drawbacks, like...

2.  Deer, cows and horses can't see their feet.  You know those bars embedded in pavement called 'cattle guards'? Cows won't cross them (even painted lines of the same size) because they can see them as they approach them, and and think they will get a foot caught if they try to cross.  A prey animal with a captured foot is now called 'a predator's dinner'.  All of these animals fear foot traps.

3.  Because they can't see their feet and fear foot traps, they won't jump a wire mesh foot trap because they don't know how far it extends.  They won't, they really won't.  Would you try to jump a deep chasm in two jumps?

I did this in a rental place after reading about it in Organic Gardening.  My garden area was about 15x20 ft.  I laid fencing all around it, with no gaps, and planted lettuce, peas, tomatoes and corn.  The deer came and looked longingly at my young plants.  I saw one actually put a foot out and touch the wire, and she jerked her foot back.  Five does and a nubbin buck.  They were lined up, staring at my garden, like horses at a rail fence.  They they moved on.  Every day, going and coming from water, they stopped and looked. The only thing they got was an errant pea vine that outgrew its trellis and leaned outside the wire mesh.  CHOMP!  Nicely pruned, thank you, but that was all.

Flatten the mesh enough (or pin it down) on grass, and you can mow right over it.  You don't have to bother with a gate because you just walk across it.  And then you lift it up, roll it up, and take it with you when you move.

It really does work.  Yes, I know it's too simple, but you'll just have to deal with it.

Sue





 
Steve Nicolini
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Wow.  That does sound simple.  I think its worth a try.

I didn't think to say it on my last post, but the garden is right next to the driveway.  I was thinking that I could plant something that would also buffer the emissions from vehicles to the edibles in the garden bed.  Stacking functions ya know. 
1) emissions buffer
2) deer deterrant/feed
3) utility plant or coppice?
4) Dynamic accumulator
5) N2 fixer?

However, this is great information, Sue.  I appreciate it. 

 
Susan Monroe
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It's just my opinion, but I don't think airborne emissions from the car is likely to affect the plants too much.

Gas and oil leaking onto the driveway and running into the garden bed is something else again.  I was talking to a city utility guy (responsible for leaf collection), and he said composting will take care of gasoline, but diesel is a real problem.

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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Well, nobody that lives up here now has a diesel-run vehicle.  The parking spots are not too close to the food forest zone. 

I will talk up the wire mesh method with my roommates and landlord.  It is hard when renting.  It is a "community" we live in here.  We are students of permaculture, with projects for this land.  They want me to design a food forest, but the landlord wants "pretty" hedge-like plants along the driveway. 

I feel like MY project and MY design are tainted a bit.  Any ideas?
 
Leah Sattler
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maybe a physical barrier isn't what you need at all. dogs make good deer deterrents as well as protecting livestock if you get the right breed. I'm not sure if a livestock gaurdian would be as good at chasing deer off as a more hunting inclined dog but a little research may turn that info up. maybe all you need is a canine patrolman. also predator urine will help. urinating in your garden is good for lots of things!
 
Susan Monroe
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Dogs are fine if you have a perimeter fence.  The scent alone may keep deer away.  But don't do it without a fence.  In most states, the formal law says that any dog chasing wildlife or livestock can be shot on sight.  The informal law of ranchers and farmers is SSS = Shoot, Shovel & Shut Up.

Predator urine is touted as a "natural, organic" method and sounds like a good idea until you realize how it is collected.  Wild animals (esp coyotes) are kept in small wire-bottomed cages, pacing back and forth, as long as they stay reasonably healthy.  They they're shot.

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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They do not allow dogs up here because they want to attract the wildlife.  We have asked if we can get a great pyr and were shut down.  What if I put a bunch of sea buckthorn around the food forest?
 
Leah Sattler
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I know they can be shot if they are chasing livestock (of course) but I have never heard of the chsing wildlife thing.  thats pretty extreme in my opinion. what about electric fence? its cheap. I really doubt there are any plants out there that will keep deer away but I spose you never know. I prefer fresh predator pee. what about a male cat? sprinkle the litter box gleanings around the garden. (not in because of toxoplasmosis, not that it isn't everywhere anyway but still) humans are predators too and I'm sure you have a daily supply of that!
 
Susan Monroe
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Maybe the people in OK are more responsible? Not here, for sure.  People here let their dogs roam indiscriminately, even their Pitbulls. The general rule here is SSS.

From the Animal Legal & Historical Center, dogs and wildlife:  http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arusdogschasewildlifetable.htm

Oklahoma seems a bit more vague than others.  A hunter-type person would probably just shoot a dog seen chasing wildlife and then walk away, no matter where he is.  To the owner, the dog has just disappeared.

Electric fencing may work, esp if you do what is suggested in this article http://www.taunton.com/finegardening/how-to/articles/deer-proof-electric-fence.aspx

But, unless your garden is large or you already have the charger, my fencing on the ground suggestion may be the cheapest.  And you don't have to bother with a gate when your hands are full.

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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True.  Cheap, no gate, might work. 

The downside is I would lose a chunk of space around the food forest.

I don't plan on putting in an electric fence.  The question still stands.

Are there any large shrubby plants that would keep deer at bay?
 
Susan Monroe
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"Are there any large shrubby plants that would keep deer at bay?"

Holly would probably do it.  American Holly (Ilex Opaca) will get about 12' tall in 30 years, with a spread of 8'.  It's also a PITA to work around.

"The downside is I would lose a chunk of space around the food forest. "

Not as much as from a large, thorny, thick hedge that will shut out the light.  I am of the opinion that using plants as deterrents for large animals is perfectly fine... IF you've got the room for it.  I just don't see the value if you only have a small area.

Try a 24" fencing (48" cut lengthwise), instead of the 36" to save some space.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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The neat thing around here is that there is plenty of deer food all year long all over the place.  So when you do a wimpy fence around your stuff, that's usually enough to keep the deer out. 

I think if you had a four foot high fence around your stuff, that wouldn't keep the deer out.  Hopping over that is about as easy as walking for them.

I think a six foot tall fence would be enough of a hassle that they would let it go. 

Another thing that could work in this situation is two fences about four feet tall and about three feet apart.  Deer don't like the confined look of it, and since they don't have depth perception, it sorta freaks them out.

Another possible deterrent:  Steve pee.  It's good for your growies too.



 
Susan Monroe
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I've got to disagree with some of your thoughts, Paul.

Deer can jump a six-foot fence with the ease that you step off a curb.  It is just nothing to them.

I have friends with ornamental gardens.  The deer routinely jump their tall fences to eat the blossoms of their roses and pansies, and get their almost-ripe strawberries.

A double fence would discourage them, but that would take up as much planting space as my idea of flat fencing laid on the ground as foot traps.

It's best if you don't use pee straight onto valuable plants, dilute it 1:10 with water for best results.  But you can pee on the perimeter with okay results, I've heard.  Never tried it myself.  But I have two dogs that pee in my yard, and although I have raccoons and opossums under my house, they don't bother the chicken coop.

Steve, another thought.  Plant your clover through the flat fencing?

Sue

 
paul wheaton
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I'm gonna guess that your friends are in an area where deer food is scarce in the winter. 

Deer will jump a six foot fence if they are hungry enough.  But if there is plenty of food on their side, six feet is generally a hassle. 



 
Steve Nicolini
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I like the clover through wire idea.  Like I said, a fence probably won't go up. 

Holly, huh.  It is pretty, and tough.  I wonder if those berries attract birds.  Is Holly invasive? 

Throw some more thorny thick ones at me... please
 
Susan Monroe
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Actually, they live in an area that has stuff to eat all year.  I tend to wonder if some of their wanderings (over fences) isn't a certain amount of just plain curiosity.  And as long as they're they're in there, they probably figure why not take some samples?

Steve, there's also barberry, which grows from 3 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 7 feet wide, depending on the cultivar.  It's quite thorny.  Here's some info on it:  http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Berberis+vulgaris

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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I wonder how well barberry and holly would co-exist.  More research, I must do.  I bet they would make a nice thick thorny hedge... maybe feed the deer?

Will bamboo make its way across a ten foot wide driveway?
 
Susan Monroe
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Clumping varieties of bamboo are generally well-behaved (but be sure of what you're buying -- NOT from one of the big box stores, as much of their stuff is mis-named.

Running bamboo will go under a driveway, under slab house foundations, etc.  I rented a house in California some years back, and the next door neighbor had planted a 5-gallon pot of running bamboo.  It was in all parts of his property and going into the neighbors'.  He was NOT a popular guy. 

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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here is a thought. would deer jump a fence if they couldn't see what was on the other side? what if you didn't waste planting area and used a fence as a trellis? sure they would munch on the stuff near the outside but maybe if it was a "wall of vegetation" they wouldn't feel comfy enough to jump in, especially if you made it a point to pee in the area and maybe hang a dirty, worn shirt that smells like people in the garden. no thoughts on the best thing to grow on the trellis..are there any vine habit plants that are evergreen that are useful?
 
Steve Nicolini
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It is not a "vine," but I have seen Salal climb.  It is edible, native, and evergreen.  It might work.  I wonder if the deer's sense of smell is strong enough to pass through my pee and this dirty shirt.  The landlord up here wouldn't dare have a dirty shirt hanging on a fence though. 

Clumping bamboo.  Got it.  There is a bamboo nursery a couple miles from where I live.  I will check that place out.  Have y'all ever heard of people using bamboo as piping?  Do you have to treat it?

 
Leah Sattler
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I know that hunters go to great pains to cover their scent while deer hunting. whether or not they really need to I don't know, maybe they like to keep up the illusion that deer have an excellent sense of smell so they have an excuse if they don't come home with one 
 
Steve Nicolini
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I am pretty sure they do have a great sense of smell.  In the books I have read on wild plants and wilderness survival, the authors always talk about plants used to lessen one's scent while hunting. 

But deer have been coming and grazing on our land for quite some time.  I wonder if they relate our scent to food? 

Maybe I will not try to keep the deer out, and if they start eating too much... well, I have a spear.  We are going to make bows and arrows in the spring as well. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Yes, I've heard of people using bamboo for piping, but only above ground.  And I don't know how long it lasts if it's constantly wet. 

The main trick to using it as enclosed piping is perforating the solid joint inside.  Wherever you see that 'joint' on the outside, bamboo has a little wall inside.  More commonly, I've seen the larger timber bamboo split lengthwise and the joint wall was removed.  This formed more of a flume than a pipe, as it was open at the top.

Sue
 
Melba Corbett
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Deer are repelled by the smell of Foxglove, so try planting that here and there along the borders. Also, deer will not jump over a fence if they cannot see what is on the other side.  I remember that from my childhood growing up in South Georgia, US., where they had numerous large plantations and metal fences for the deer. with the fencing only high enough they could not see over it.  You could use recycled materials, hopefully; and it would not be so cost prohibitive. 
 
Martin Hart
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My girlfriend developed a significant deer problem this summer, with two young bucks and a doe that decided that her garden was actually theirs, and were eating pretty much everything, in exchange for their generous gift of e-coli on what they didn't eat or trample.  As urban deer, these young punks weren't even remotely afraid of her, and wouldn't move even if she made menacing gestures while shouting.  She was getting ready to break the law and make venison steaks out of them, she was so frustrated. 

Because the home is a rental, and we're always on a limited budget with even greater time constraints, she didn't want to invest a lot of time and money into a huge fencing project.  I did a little research, and found what I was looking for.

I wound up picking up a motion-activated sprinkler.  It's just like a motion sensor for a light, but it activates a sprinkler, so it's a creative solution.  It is activated by a nine-volt battery, which is supposed to last for 4 months.  The manufacturer suggests keeping the sensitivity down so that the sprinkler isn't going off when the deer at at a longer distance.

By keeping the unit set to a lower sensitivity, the deer are close enough to be both surprised, and hit with a jet of sprinkler water when the unit is triggered.  They go airborne, sideways...  They really don't seem to enjoy the unit as much as we do    I picked our sprinkler up for $50 at a local hardware store - it is called a scarecrow.  We haven't lost so much as another leaf out of the garden to large grazers, and it keeps out Mr. Kitty from next door, who until recently, thought that a vegetable garden was also a litter box.  No more poop, no more grazing, just beautiful, yummy veggies. 

Cheers!

Jeremy
 
Jordan Lowery
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i use wild rose as a living fence. it suckers well and fills in the space in a few years. eventually giving you a 100% deer proof fence. that also gives you rose hips. i also use things like osage orange, black locust, and sechuan peppercorn. all make great living hedges for the outside. on the inside things like siberian pea shrub and hazelnuts work well.
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