They look beautiful from a distance, but deer quickly earn the enmity of both experienced and rookie gardeners by their habit of munching on garden greenery. Deer can be a major garden pest, consuming plants ranging from sweet corn to blackberry bushes to roses. One solution for the gardener harassed by deer is to construct a fence that will keep them out.
The two basic types of garden fences commonly used for deer exclusion are an electric fence and a woven wire fence. Electric fences produce a mild electrical shock that discourages deer from wanting to make physical contact with the fence itself. Electric fence styles include tightly strung high-tensile electric wire, an electric netting fence and electric poly wire. Woven wire fences are heavy, non-electric net fences that consist of interlocking vertical and horizontal wires typically spaced no more than about six inches apart.
Garden fences that keep deer out vary in price considerably, based upon the materials you use.
An electric fence is the least expensive type of deer-proof garden fence, typically costing less than one dollar per foot of fence. Whether you opt to construct a high-tensile electric fence or a simpler electric poly wire fence, the most expensive part of your electric fence will be the energizer unit, which provides the necessary electrical power.
According to Penn State University, an 8-foot-tall woven wire fence costs approximately $1.80 per foot. The cost per foot is higher if you pay a contractor to install it for you.
Whitetail deer can jump almost eight feet into the air, so if you choose a deer fence that is not electrified, it will need to be at least eight feet tall. If you already have a shorter garden fence in place, Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont, suggests that you add onto the top of your fence to extend its height, orconstruct a second fence approximately four feet from the perimeter of the first fence to discourage jumping.
The deer fence with the shortest installation time is an electric poly wire fence. Once you've acquired your supplies, you should be able to install it in a single afternoon. A woven wire fence requires wooden posts for support, so you'll need to allow enough time for post installation before you put up the woven wire. Allow extra installation time if you opt to set the posts in cement instead of directly into the soil.
Base your garden fence on the size of the deer population in your area. If you occasionally see isolated deer, then a double-stranded electric poly wire fence should provide an effective fence to discourage them from trying to get into your garden. However, you'll need a more substantial fence if you live in an area with heavy deer populations or if your garden happens to intersect with a common deer path. Walk around the perimeter of your electric fence daily to ensure that the fence wires aren't touching vegetation, which can cause them to ground out, and which drastically weakens the electrical shock deer receive.