Liquid Fence: Defending Your Garden Against Deer

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browsing buck
browsing buck
Thanks to a little spray of Liquid Fence, Mr. Buck ignores my young peach tree’s tender tips.

Remember the first time the magic of Disney brought us Bambi and his ilk? We never saw the dark side of our little antlered friends did we; the one where they sneak about the night bounding over any obstacle shorter than a Winnebago, smug in the fact that they can devour a drift of daisies, a row of roses, and a lane of lilies before their two-legged, big-brained, thumb-endowed foes so much as pour their first cup of coffee.  And while I am planning my imaginary all-venison buffet, they are reclining in some shaded glen drawing up their own menu of late night snacks to be had in my pastoral, well-stocked outdoor larder.  In the words of another cartoon character (that of one lisping cartoon duck), “This means war!”

When it comes to protecting my garden from deer, I enlist a two-prong approach: fencing and repellent. Some friends opt for a third option, dogs with outside access. It seems the presence of a territorial wolf-like carnivore works wonders on persuading deer to focus on neighbors’ homesteads instead of yours. Unfortunately, my two well-fed bullies have little interest in deer other than a couple half-hearted growls from the front porch. The deer are on to them.

"Oh yeah, we see the deer. What do you want us to do?"
“Oh yeah, we see the deer. What do you want us to do?”

I have found deer repellents  to be quite successful in thwarting grazing deer, though you do need to consider weather for spray longevity and effectiveness. The stuff works great in dry weather, but must be reapplied after strong rain storms. I keep a spray bottle of Liquid Fence deer repellent by my back door, and take it with me on almost every stroll around the property, spraying here and there to protect the unprotected, and to help ‘train’ the deer that some plants are off limits. I’ve found the deer do learn and form habits about what tastes good and what tastes bad, and they do have favorites. To deer, any rose or plant in the Rosa genus is the human equivalent of fine asparagus tips roasted in butter and drenched in hollandaise sauce.

The afternoon lunch crowd thwarted by my orchard deer fence.
The afternoon lunch crowd thwarted by the deer fence around my orchard.

Fencing tends to be the best solution in creating a deer-free parcel. For my large cutting garden, vegetable garden and orchard, I’ve installed an 8-foot plastic deer fence held up by zip-ties on t-posts every ten feet. For the gate, I simply attach hooked bungee cords to the fence end to secure the opening. In most cases, deer opt for the lowest hanging fruit so to speak, and find it easier to forage than to try to breech a fence. It’s worked for me ten years, that is when I remember to keep the gate closed. My mainstay rule, no matter what, always close the gate behind you. It’s safe to say, the night you forget, the deer will remember.

I want to thanks the folks at Dog Fence DIY for sending me a bottle of Liquid Deer Fence to try out and review. It really does work, as my rescued quince, cherry, and maple trees will vouch. Check out their review which I find to be ernest and spot on.

Deer dama
Deer damage: the ugly truth (clockwise from top left) tulips, grape vine, fig branch, fig tree, apricot, and apple.

19 COMMENTS

    • Anne, I suspect deer are fine swimmers, or someone in the nursery trade introduced them. 😉 Colvos Passage between Vashon Island and the Kitsap peninsula is no wider than a mile in most places. Usually we have a couple bears swim over during summer months, and coyotes have appeared here in the last several years.

  1. too much of anything is never good and things in the wrong places are the same. in my neck of the woods, people go crazy if they hear that an eagle has been spotted anywhere in the area. my friend that lives way up north in BC hates eagles because they are everywhere, they eat all the salmon and they poop on everything.

    • Funny how that is Jaz, I know when I lived in Alaska, you’d sometimes take for granted the flocks of eagles perched on pilings like pelicans. Shockingly, it was not that long ago that there was a bounty on eagles in Alaska, according to my friends who grew up there.

  2. Hi Tom
    I have a question about the deer fence. I have been wanting to get some to fence off an expansion of our blueberry patch but wonder if you’ve ever had birds get tangled up in it?

  3. Hi Sue, the deer fence I use is a rigid-ish plastic with large 2″ squares, so bird are never caught or harmed in it. Here’s a link to what it looks like: http://www.gemplers.com/product/G51924/Heavy-Duty-Deer-Fence-Black-7-1-2×330
    On the other hand I never used bird netting, as everything, including me gets caught up in it. The mesh is too fine and and gets tangled up and locked in the branches. I tend to use reflective ribbon on my blueberries, though I’m not sure how really effective that is. I think this year I might try reemay, which is a thin, tough, cloth that lets light in and keeps critters out. I’ll cover the branches when the fruit is nearing ripeness. Here’s an example of it: http://www.territorialseed.com/product/Reemay/row_covers_cloches. Good luck!

  4. Tom,
    We must share the same members of the “Deerly” family. I, have not seen any young bucks with new velvet as you have in your photo…just one doe recently with a tiny, tiny fawn. The other doe’s seem to hang in the strip of property that separates us…..I do see that some one has been nibbling on the clematis that is draped over my fence……love the blase looks on Boz and Gracie….
    Cheers,
    neighbor Kate

    • So true Kate, the deer plan their menus on that property between us. A quick hop over the failing cedar fence and they are free dine on both of our gardens.

  5. Oooooh, don’t get me started on the f—— bambis. Thanks to the dim-witted old lady one block up our street, who feeds the blighters, we have a whole bleepin’ herd of the monsters roaming the neighborhood in ravenous, thug-like packs. I have thus become the Crazy Old Lady (just not as old as That Woman) who runs out of her house banging pots and pans together to scare off the hooved maggots whenever I catch them munching on my garden plants.

    Yes, the various sprays do work pretty well, but you do have to be careful to spray on a calm, windless afternoon, and wear old clothes that can be tossed instantly into the laundry when the inevitable drift occurs. Peeyew.

    Yes — Bambi (the movie) — what was with that? Walt and Co obviously were not gardeners! I remember seeing ‘Bambi’ (the Disney movie) at a tender age. I was literally in love with Bambi (the grown stag — he was so, so, so manly!) and I remember having actual nightmares about the fire at the end of the movie for years afterward. Remember, where Bambi’s brave father stands so nobly on the top of that cliff, protecting his family?! I can’t exactly remember what happened, but I remember Bambi took over at the end, as the new young studly deer dude)

    Fast forward to today, sadly disillusioned, and my nightmares these days are about finding said deer munching on my garden. And what about those other adorable forest animals? Remember Thumper? the cute little bunny? Oh, right, we love bunnies in our gardens. Then there was Flower — I’m not all that wild about skunks in my garden, either.

    Hand me more of that deer spray, Tom.

  6. Oh Kathy, thanks for the good laugh this morning. Oddly, rabbits are not much of a problem here. I think our abundance of raptors keeps the population in check. And the only skunks I know of can be cutting in line at the ferry dock. Here’s to fewer mornings as a pots-and-pans percussionist.

    • Well, I am a musician, and technically a percussionist, but I am much better banging on the piano than drums and gong-like items. Sigh. My students have gotten somewhat used to me, leaping out of my chair in mid-lesson to dash outside in pursuit of what most people, admittedly, see as beautiful, benign, graceful creatures. I suppose one of the (very few) perks of getting older is that one is forced to abandon certain illusions about traditional physical beauty and find something else to cultivate. Apparently I am choosing eccentricity. Could be worse, I guess.

  7. Almost two years ago (after fashioning makeshift fences for years that mostly kept the deers inside after they breached my sad efforts), I finally finished a new fence on three sides of my 1/2 acre property. The remaining side of the property has a 40-year old cedar fence that is nearly unreachable behind ivy (ugh), a neighbors relentless bamboo (double ugh) and lots of weeds; but it seemed to keep the deers out. Success.

    My half gallon of undiluted deer repellent sat unused in the shed. (That stuff is expensive even when you buy the largest size and dilute)!

    So imagine my surprise a few mornings ago when I awoke to a deer intruder munching away. The neighbors must have had a laugh seeing this old dude running around in his bathrobe and rubber boots opening gates and herding deer for almost twenty minutes. This circus was repeated for two more mornings.

    Finally I found the the three board fence opening deep in a corner where ivy, bamboo and rotting boards provide just enough initial compromising of the fence to allow deer to push through.

    For now my mornings are back to normal, but that deer repellant now looks like less effort and cost than replacing/repairing hundreds of feet of fence. Maybe I should spray the entire fence with repellent.

    • Ah, Bart, I feel your pain. I think one of the toughest projects I faced was single-handedly driving the posts, and stretching and stringing up the deer fencing on the Southeast corner of my property. And every time I think I want to expand the orchard, flashbacks of summer-long fence installation stop me dead in my tracks.

  8. Hey, Tom, thanks for the good advice on deer ! Although our property is official designated a “Zone of Peace”, I have lost my serenity when it comes to the deer munching on my favorite flowers at night. I will try the liquid fence.

    The fig tree is looking good, hopefully a good harvest on the way ! I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for being you.

    • Brooks, I think you can still keep your garden a Zone of Peace, that is with a few spritz’s of Liquid Fence. 😉 Stinky at first, but then it dissipates quickly.

  9. Hi Tom,
    I’m in the nursery trade and Liquid Deer Fence is the bomb! Just don’t spray when the breeze is in your direction. Trust me! I am curious about why someone from the nursery trade would introduce deer to your island. Unless it’s to drum up business-haha! I have friends on Ketron Island south of you that have watched the deer swim across from Stielacoom. I have also had coworkers pose the question: would the deer be tasty after eating our veggies and flowers???

    • Hi Nic, Oh I was just trying be funny suggesting the only one to benefit from the introduction of deer would be the nurseries on the island. 😉 Yep and I think our island venison would likely be like Kobe beef, made succulent from grazing on the posies and tender tree tips of island gardeners. No hunting on my property though, not enough space between neighbors, pets and roadways.

  10. Tom, I feel for you. I could not grow anything before my husband put up a 5 ft. tall metal fence. They could jump over it easily, but never bothered. They finally changed their habits and went up the road to the neighbors.

  11. Very funny, KathyG…. A few months back I was the local crazy lady in swarms of white fly around the beans – stunning in a nightie, gumboots, arms and hair flailing around, cursing like the famed black duck. Dog, cat and kids watched on behind the safety of glass eating their breakfast, great entertainment to have a mother raging over insects at 7 in the morning.
    Thanks for the laugh, Tom. Shame that Boz has the look but not the action. Purely ornamental, that boy.

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