Oh dear, oh deer.

SOMEONE has stripped my little apple trees that I planted last fall.DSC04437


The peach tree didn’t get it too bad.  Yet.


Now who would do such a thing, I wonder?

Well, consider the view from my front porch a few evenings ago:


Bold as brass, they just stood in the driveway looking at me as I walked out into the front yard, as if to say, “Human, what are you doing in our diner?”

We started making plans to surround pretty much everything with 8-foot fencing even though we’ve heard the deer can find their way over nearly any fence Man can erect.

But I saw an intriguing article at Backwoods Home Magazine, which advised using three-foot-high, 12½ gauge, non-climb fencing that has 2″ x 4″ holes and laying it on the ground:

Fencing is laid in two sections around a fruit tree. The tree can be watered, fertilized, sprayed and harvested with the wire in place.

Cut two pieces of fencing, each about 6′ x 3′. It is better to use two pieces rather than one, because it is easier to remove. However, we have sometimes placed one smaller piece of fencing over a newly-planted bare root tree. The wire can always be cut later.

Placing fencing over bare or just-seeded soil is easy. Just lay it down and bend over the ends, poking them into the soil.

I showed it to my husband, who said he had been wondering about that same thing!  He said he’d been pondering how cows are kept from crossing roads with grating because they won’t step onto it:

Apparently most wildlife, including deer, don’t like stepping onto grating or fencing.

We thought about trying this and even bought some of the recommended fencing from Tractor Supply, but the more I looked around online,  the more comments I found from people who had tried this and said it didn’t work for them; I’d estimate about 85% of commenters said it didn’t work and about 15% of commenters said it did.  Frankly I didn’t like those odds, so we returned the fencing to TS, and today we went back to working on the fence.

We measured out a 150-foot perimeter down near the pond encompassing some of the fruit trees.  Because we want to get something up pretty quickly, we’re going to sink ten-foot wooden posts for the corners and then add some ten-foot metal poles between them so we can string some lightweight wire garden fencing.  This fencing is usually four feet tall, so we’ll have to do a top and bottom row on the posts unless we find some 8-foot fencing somewhere.  It will end up looking sort of like this:

I’ll be building raised beds lined with chicken wire and cardboard on the bottom to keep out digging rodents.  I’ll post photos of the whole thing when we’re done and explain the steps in case anyone else needs tips on building a deer-proof garden.

However, that won’t be the end; as soon as it’s done, Philip is going to start working on building a wooden fence around it because we like the way it looks much better:


He’s handy, so he can do it himself or with help from my dad, but it will take most of the summer to finish it.  Once it’s done, we’ll pull up the metal poles and wire fence and store them in the shed until we need them for something else.

I’m curious though – how many of you think laying the fencing on the ground would have worked?  Got any other good deer-deterring tips?

7 thoughts on “Oh dear, oh deer.

  1. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of this method being used. Mostly it’s fences of at least 8′, dogs, and wolf urine that I’ve heard of. For raised beds you can make a sort of “lid” out of chicken wire that fits over the raised beds and plants growing in them. Hunting them on the property can teach them “the humans that live here are dangerous”, but obviously you can only legally do that during hunting season.

    The whole concept of cattle grates seems to be the real possibility of the animal’s hooves slipping between the bars and briefly getting stuck, therefore deterring them from further encroachments and generally shying away from similar visual patterns. I’m not sure how the fencing would replicate that effect, since the gaps are so large and the wire is so fine. And as far as clever animals go, (as deer tend to be) cattle grates have limited effectiveness as it is.


  2. I have to hand it to Alla, the best idea that I could come up with would be to place signs that say, “Reserved for bears and the humans who live here.” If it did work it would be one for the books.


  3. I’ve been hunting (and trying to deter) white tail deer for a few years now and I doubt they would give a you know what about this stuff lying on the ground. Especially if they are the semi-tame kind that hang around properties like yours.


  4. Having so many deer on our property, I think I am inclined to agree with the 85%. We finally surrounded our fruit trees with chicken wire fences (about 2′ in diameter) that are about 4′ tall. Works perfectly for newer trees (ours are only 2 and 3 years old).


    • The deer didn’t try to push through the chicken wire? I’d read they’ll do that if they’re hungry enough.

      We have a gigantic old pear tree on our property, so overgrown that the fruit isn’t really harvestable (look for a post soon on our efforts to prune and rehabilitate that tree!), and I think the deer love coming around our property to get the dropped fruit; we just left it on the ground to self-compost. Maybe I should rake it up next year (ugh, what a mess) and toss it off into the woods to keep them from being so attracted.

      By the way, on a different note, I was browsing through your blog and noticed one of your children has EoE; one of my nephews has this as well, the poor little guy. It’s been a lot of work for his parents (and still is), but they seem to have finally gotten a handle on it (he’s four years old). His baby and toddler years were just heartbreaking though, as he was in constant pain and wasn’t able to eat properly or gain weight.


  5. Broadhead in September or slug in November has been known to prevent deer from eating bark the following March/April. Seriously, I’m actually surprised that the trees around where I live are doing as well as they are.


    • I was REALLY surprised that none of the various evergreens I planted were munched. I bought a lot of different size pines – all the way from seedlings up to waist-high ones – on clearance at Lowe’s last October and stuck them in the ground with no fencing or anything.

      But the apple trees got decimated. The blueberry bushes don’t seem to have gotten it too bad – maybe just a little. But I’m sure once the fruit is on, the deer will really be drawn to them.


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