Advice About Deer Fences

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Welcoming and nurturing wildlife is my passion, so what can I say about deer fences? I’ll get to design — another passion — but first some thoughts on humane gardening that have practical implications for your fence.

Deer’s gotta eat

I’m glad you want to fence your vegetable garden, not your entire property. With a large property, you can make sure there are plants to feed the deer away from your orchard and planned vegetable garden.

Form follows function

Before you build a permanent fence, I encourage you to spend time on your property observing its ecosystem. The optimal design for your fence will depend on what needs protecting from whom. Your young fruit trees may be more vulnerable to deer than your vegetables, for example, requiring cages to protect individual trees while they’re young. And your vegetable garden may need protection from rabbits, groundhogs, or racoons, each of which calls for a different design. Or maybe you’ll be really lucky and all these animals will have predators and food aplenty and won’t eat your produce.

Tools for observation

I suggest treating your first vegetable garden as an experiment. You could forego the fence or install an inexpensive one temporarily. Once you’ve gardened at your new home for a couple of years, you’ll have a much better idea what the threats are, as well as how much produce you can use and how big a garden you enjoy tending.

Whatever you do, consider installing wildlife cameras to monitor what’s really going on.

Living fences

If you have room and time, consider a living fence that deer can neither push through nor jump over. One option is a dense hedge of deer-resistant native shrubs at least four feet deep with a gate. Create a broad pathway around the interior of the entire hedge to ensure it doesn’t shade your vegetables, which generally require at least six hours of sun.

Proper installation is key to the effectiveness of horse fencing. Ensuring posts are securely anchored and that the fence is level helps maintain its integrity over time. Consultation with professionals can provide valuable insights into the best installation practices..

If you have the right conditions — moist soil nowhere near anyone’s foundation or plumbing — you could make a living fence from willow cuttings. Native species are keystones, supporting hundreds of species of caterpillars, necessary to the survival of terrestrial bird species.

Simple and symmetrical

The critter fence designs pictured below are made of nearly invisible wire with metal or wood posts. Little effort is made to hide the wire; your eye is drawn past the wire by the  lush plants inside. (Note: Avoid drooping fencing; a bad look.) Choose a style and materials that work with your house and hardscaping, keeping the number of materials to a minimum – and don’t break the bank. Once you’ve gardened at your new home for a couple of years, you’ll have a much better idea what the threats are, as well as how much produce you can use and how big a garden you enjoy tending.

Humans are programmed from birth to prefer symmetry, so it’s no coincidence that the enclosed shapes are square or rectangular with a wide entry in the middle of the longest wall. The rectangular enclosures even appear to follow the golden rule, with the longest sides roughly 1.6 times the shorter ones. Note that the wire grids are squares or Vs, too, which are more attractive than rectangles.

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