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The Complete Guide for Deerproofing Your Landscape

by Gene Caballero | Updated November 28, 2021

Look, if you put as much time and money into your landscape as I do... 

The last thing you want to have happen is to see your investment fall captive to a herd of roaming deer.

Get this, even so-called “deer-resistant” plants are not off the table when starving deer are looking for something to nibble.

So how can you protect your landscaping from even the hungriest deer?

Below you will find EVERYTHING you need to know about protecting your landscape from deer this winter and beyond. 


Why are deer such a nuisance in the winter?

“The upcoming season is when deer are on the move to find food for themselves. They lose a lot of weight during the winter freeze and look to make up for them.” -Joel Phillips, Founder of Home Guide Corner

It’s true, deer graze on foliage for much of their diet. And in the winter, their food supplies dwindle, and they are left with fewer options. 

Especially when it gets to be that time of year when you need to hire a snow removal company

While deer might leave your arborvitae and roses during the warmer months. Their winter hunger may drive them to eat what they normally wouldn’t. Which is bad news for the landscape you care so much for!

That is why it is essential to protect your landscape in the winter from deer.

Fortunately, you can use these 5 steps to protect your plants this winter. 

Step 1- Plant Deer-resistant Plants

One easy solution is to start with deer-resistant plants in your landscape to begin with. Unfortunately, this limits your options as far as plant varieties. 

A few common deer-resistant plants are:

  • Iris, 
  • Hyssop,
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit,
  • Lavender
  • Paper-birch
  • And many more!

Check this comprehensive list of deer-resistant plants for more.

Be warned, many deer-resistant plants are far from deer-proof.

One excellent example of this is arborvitae. While sold as a deer-resistant plant. In the midst of a harsh winter, a grazing herd of deer will broaden their palette. And your lovely border of arborvitae may be on the menu.

Part of this is due to the fact that the colder weather constrains a plant's scent. As a result, what once smelled unappetizing, now has little or no smell. 

While you should select deer-restant plants in the spots of your landscape deer most often peruse, they may require extra protections when food becomes more scarce.  

Step 2- Use Deer-repellents

“Deer rely on the sense of smell heavily for feeding themselves. Many deer repellents found in the market are cheap and use this ‘Sense of smell’ of theirs to prevent them from evading your land. These repellents powder bears smelly egg solids targeting the deer’s smell to keep them away.” -Trevor Lively, President Blue Jay Irrigation

One of the simplest solutions is to use a deer repellent solution throughout the year. Especially in the winter. While you may want to consider a deer-repellent all year round, they are essential in the winter. 

Some good deer solutions are:

Some simpler solutions such as peppermint oil or predator urine (coyote etc.) are also options. 

How often should I apply deer solution?

In the warmer months you want to spray at least every 2-weeks. More frequently during rainy periods as the solution will dissipate faster. In the summer months you can generally leave deer-resistant plants untreated.

In the winter months, deer repellent can be applied less frequently, and should be applied at least once a month to your gardens. More frequently if you are getting a lot of rain, and even deer-resistant plants should be sprayed. 

Pro Tip! Be sure that when you apply deer solution that it has time to dry and set on the plants without rain washing it away. This will allow it to have the best effect. 

While deer-repellents are effective, your only bullet-proof deer solution is in step #4.

Step 3- Let them Know There Are Humans Around 

“The first step is to clean up any debris from last year. This can include leaves, twigs, and vines. Move any tables, chairs, or other items that would make a deer feel comfortable in your landscape. You can also use fear of humans as a deterrent for the deer by installing motion sensor lights or spraying around the site with predator scent.” -Lindsey Hyland, of Urban Organic Yield

It’s true, if your lawn looks like a woodland paradise a deer will be more likely to camp out in your yard and forage for food

By cleaning up your lawn by removing debris such as sticks and fall leaves, you can deter deer. 

Further, if you make it apparent humans use the yard. Deer will be more likely to keep their distance. 


Use Dogs to Deter Deer

Nothing says, Humans! to a deer like a dog

Dogs will not only bark when an intruder tries to munch on your plants, but they will also keep the territory 'marked' and create an invisible barrier that will naturally repel deer

Step 4- Use Deer Fencing

"The only way to deer-proof is to create a barrier. There are very low-cost and lightweight deer fence options. If you're going to protect a large area, the fencing needs to be at least 9 ft tall. Otherwise consider creating an enclosure around your garden using chicken wire." - Zachary Smith, President of Smith's Pest Management

At the end of the day, the ultimate solution to keep deer out of your landscape will be physical fencing. 

Depending on the size of your lawn, and how problematic the deer are in your area. You can go with one of 2 fencing options; temporary or permanent.

Permanent Fencing for Deer Proofing

If you have a small lawn, you may want to consider permanent fencing

Look, permanent fencing is probably the most expensive solution for keeping deer out of your lawn. But it is nearly 100% effective. 

Ideally, you want your fencing to be a minimum of 5 feet tall or more. 

Remembereven deer know that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. So deer will not jump over a fence they can not see to the other side of. 

Therefore a wooden or other solid fencing may be your best option. Anything that will prevent the deer from seeing the other side. If you have a chainlink fence already that deer often jump, you may want to consider black fabric landscaping cloth to prevent them from peering through.

And hey, you can get some added privacy out for the deal! 

Temporary Deer Fencing

In cold climates, temporary deer fencing is a common sight in the winter months. 

While it may not be the prettiest sight...

It can be done in a way that is not that aesthetically invasive, and it's much cheaper than permanent fencing. Best of all it is just as effective! 

There are several options for temporary deer fencing, most commonly plastic deer fencing is used in combination with U-channel posts. However, you can use metal fencing such as chicken wire or other hard fencing. 

With temporary fencing, it is best that you encircle each of your garden beds individually. Or at least the plants or gardens that are most at risk. This can also help keep your plants from other animals that can destroy your landscape such as rabbits. 

Pro Tip! Burlap can also be used around certain shrubs such as arborvitae without the need to use stakes or posts. This can also prevent them from wilting in the winter. In cold climatesyou should always burlap your arborvitae for the first few seasons after they are planted, regardless of deer. 


Step 5- Don't forget to Protect Your Tree's Bark

Eating your plants isn't the only problem deer will cause. Another common issue is that young bucks will rub their antlers on young trees

This behavior typically starts in the early fall and can run into the winter months.  

To prevent this you want to either place fencing around your young trees. Or at the very least you will want to wrap the lower portion of your young trees with burlap, chicken wire or a plastic guard to deter them from rubbing their antlers on your trees. And prevent them from causing significant damage. 

Ideally, research suggests that bucks most often target trees 1-3 inches in diameter. Typically deer rub on the lower part of trees and shrubs, so wrapping the first 5 feet of trunk will help tremendously. 

Creating a Deer-Proof Landscape is About Deer Training

White tail deer are intelligent and adapt quickly.

Get this, according to research by the University of Idaho:

"Other than dogs, some people believe a baited electric fence or an electric deer shocking devise is the most effective because they have the ability to permanently train deer to avoid the area."

While most of us don't have access to electric collars and fences for deer. We can adopt the mindset that keeping deer out of your landscape isn't just about stopping the deer from coming onto your property with barriers. 

It's also about training deer that the plants in your territory are not on the menu. 

This can be achieved by regularly teaching deer to stay away through a variety of methods. 

Other methods you can consider to deter deer from unfenced areas include:

  • ultrasonic repellents,
  • motion-activated sprinklers,
  • and strobe lights. 

The Bottom Line on a Creating a Deer Proof Landscape

Creating a deer-proof landscape doesn’t have to be a major chore, but it will likely take you a few seasons to develop the best strategy for your land. 

Oftentimes protecting plants from deer is a combination of all of the above tips. Using a mix of temporary, permanent, and liquid fence. Along with human presence and deer-resistant plants will help you in the arduous battle to defend your landscape. 

If you found this go-to guide to be useful. Be sure to share it with your family and friends! 

And if you are looking for more great landscaping tips check out this one on creating a successful landscape design.

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