Deer are one of the worst garden pests and are very hard to fend off. They're not like moles, gophers or rabbits that you can exterminate, trap or simply kill; they are game animals in the United States and fall under wildlife laws. They are also large enough to step over, trample, or reach around most physical barriers that are practical for a garden. Besides all that, they will eat just about any plant, and seem to particularly like popular landscaping and garden plants. So, when you're looking for ways to keep deer out of your yard or landscaping, you may have to set up a variety of defenses to give yourself the best shot and having a deer-free property.
Reduce your landscape's appeal to deer by getting rid of the plants they love to eat, and planting deer-resistant plants in their place. Try these trees: holly, buckeye, spruce and mimosa; these shrubs: juniper, red elderberry, Russian olive and arrowwood; and these ornamentals: vinca, bluebells, larkspur or snapdragons. See the Resources section for a database of deer-resistant plants.
Try deer repellents. These are most effective when used right away at the first sign of deer feeding, since the repellents may not have as good of an effect on deer if they have established a regular feeding pattern on your landscape. The various repellents available include bad-tasting and bad-smelling substances, usually sprayed on foliage or on the ground. Hinder and Deer-Off are both safe to use on garden and fruit-bearing vegetation. If you don't need to eat or harvest vegetables or fruit from the plants in question, you can use other chemical sprays like Deer Away or Tree Guard.
Fence off areas you want to protect from deer. Deer fencing around your property or garden is an effective method of controlling damage to your plants. There are several types; try cotton rope strung between stakes or fence posts at a height of 30 inches and sprayed with deer repellent around a garden or flower bed, or small circles of snow fencing around prized trees or shrubs.
Net tender plants in the spring. Early spring is the time of year when deer are most active, searching for forage to regain body mass after the long winter. Protect young plants from deer browsing by covering them with heavy netting, such as bird netting, at night. Individual upright plants also benefit from the protection of a wire mesh cage, which can help keep deer from eating too much of a plant.
Install fencing with gating and cattle guards, electric fencing, or even permanent woven-wire fencing if you have a large property or a severe deer problem. Deer learn quickly to avoid electric fencing. If you have permanent fencing around your land, be sure to have proper gating and cattle guards to prevent deer from entering at driveways, roads or gates.