The task of preventing hungry deer from devastating a vegetable garden has fostered great creativity among gardeners. These beautiful but unwelcome visitors can trample and chew through weeks of hard work in a matter of minutes. To keep deer out of your vegetable garden, experienced gardeners suggest that fencing--bordering the garden with plants deer do not like to eat, and applying a variety of commercial and homemade repellents are the most successful ways to keep your homegrown vegetables protected from deer.
Build a fence around your garden. Supplies listed above are for a simple fence. Pound stakes into the ground with a mallet or hammer, to a depth of 1 foot. Staple deer netting or other mesh firmly to stakes at 4-6 foot intervals. Leave your last stake seated loosely in its hole; you will need to pull it out frequently for access to the garden and replace it when you leave. Sturdier fence materials exist, including wire mesh and metal poles. Add visual distractions--fabric scraps, Mylar scraps or holographically-printed glittery ribbon to your fence. Use stakes and netting to build temporary shelters over vegetables that are almost ready to pick.
Plant a border of deer-resistant annuals and perennials around your vegetable garden. Annuals include yarrow, onions, garlic and strongly-scented herbs, such as oregano, thyme, catmint and dill. Scent plays a large part in deer identification of edible plants, and a strongly-scented border can help conceal more delicious garden contents. Perennials that deer dislike include daffodils, barberry, rhubarb, bearberry, lavender, spurges, and coneflower. Taste, texture, and thorns all determine what deer will eat. Consult your County Extension Service to determine the most successfully deer-resistant plants in your area.
Edge your garden with deer repellents. Commercial repellents generally depend on a rotten-egg smell to keep deer away. Gardeners report success with predator urines and scents, whether they regularly walk their dogs around the garden or use commercially produced coyote urine. Some gardeners claim great success with human hair (ask your hairdresser for sweepings and put a thick layer around your garden). Success is increased by renewing repellents after rain. The goal is to send a message to deer that it is dangerous to approach the garden.
Power up your deterrence with electricity. Some gardeners electrify fences. Others use motion-sensors to trigger lights, noisemakers, or water-sprays, to startle deer away from planted areas. Changing the startle mechanism is often recommended so that deer do not become habituated to it and recognize that no harm will come to them.