10 Surefire Tactics to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden Without Killing Them

We smell the fresh, crisp spring air, open our dusty windowpanes for the first time in many months, break out the old garden gloves… then put it on our shopping list to get a new pair instead. The feeling is infectious for gardeners, getting ready to plunge our hands back into the soil and watch our plants poke their heads above the ground. It’s exciting! We put a lot of hard work into it, and then!… We wake up one morning and its gone. The lettuce is chewed, the heads of so many of our precious plants have been chomped before their prime. We haven’t gotten to enjoy a single stem. Who are these culprits?! How could they take this satisfaction away from us?

Although there are many different kinds of pests that you will encounter in your garden, insects and animals alike, one of the most irritating and unavoidable are deer. Deer manage to sneak in in the middle of the night and eat the plants that you have slaved over. However, for all your time and produce might be worth, it is not worth it for many lovers of nature to hurt these pesky animals. So, then what are you to do to keep them away from your veggies? In this article, we are going to look at ten great ways to address this problem in any yard and garden without killing them.

1.     Plant “uncomfortable” plants

All of the options that are talked about in this article are ways to keep the deer safe, as well any other animals that might come into your yard or that you might own. Many of them are organic, or all-natural ideas, that are easily done home remedies. This first option is a great one for not just deer, but also for other animal pests, like rabbits or voles. Any animal that has a vegetarian diet is going to have preferences in its food and many times the different kinds of animals will have foods that repel them. This could be because of its scent or because of the taste. Therefore, with some of these “foods” it will be important to have them strategically placed to be what they will try and munch on or get a whiff of first.

Many times, if the plant has a strong aroma, it will do the trick. Therefore, planting herbs, like lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano, in a layer at their entrance points will deter them from exploring much of the rest of your garden. Also, they don’t like garlic, chives or onion like plants because of the odor and distinctive flavor.

Deer will often avoid plants with leaves that are fuzzy or hairy. Just like people can have a problem with a texture from food, deer are the same way and it bothers them. Plants that are bristly but still are a pretty add to the yard include ageratum, the ever popular spirea, yarrow, lady’s mantle, and lamb’s ear. Hairy leaves aren’t the only turn-off texture-wise. Plants that are more difficult for them to chew, like fibrous or leathery plants, will be a big disappointment for the deer. Some plants that are popular and get this job done are iris, peonies and arrowwood viburnum. Keep in mind that the sharp edges of an ornamental grass are equally uninviting to these unwanted guests.

2.     Plant Their Favorite Foods

Now that we have covered the foods that will keep deer from wandering too far back into your yard after feeling the lack of hospitality in the front, it’s time to keep in mind that these planting techniques simply might not work for you. Reasons could be anything from the layout of your yard not being apt for this type of design, or just because the plants mentioned above are not what you want in your yard and garden. This next option, then, is along the same vein but branching out, giving you more planting options.

It might seem pretty pointless to plant the foods they like the most if your aim is to keep them out. However, depending on the layout of your yard, using their preferred foods as a distraction can be quite useful when trying to keep them away from produce plants or your favorite hydrangea baby. Deer are normally extremely skittish creatures that like to come out at twilight and early morning hours to avoid being seen and disturbed. As most of us will not be out and about at these hours to chase them away, someone in the house will still be moving around. Planting your favorite plants that may also be the ones that they like to snack on the most right up by your house may well keep them away simply because of the fear factor. Seeing lights in your house switch on and off, people opening and closing doors and windows and walking and talking around the home is just a little too much action for the deer to still feel safe enough to grab a snack. A huge win for you!

3.     Scare Them Away

 Continuing on this line of thinking, we have come to method number three, scare them away. If the natural movements around your home in the morning and nighttime hours isn’t enough to keep them away, then employ some of these easy automated methods. These will allow you to continue to plant whatever you want, while staying out of the buffet business.

Let There Be Light

Using a light that is set on a motion sensor can be extremely effective. A lot of the herds have learned that a light turning on means the presence of people or a car and will run before you have the chance to see them. With the motion sensor, nobody else needs to be there but the deer and they are tricked into believing otherwise.

Water Spray

Another effective scare tactic is one that might be great for you to use if you have the right layout to your yard. Using water that is set on a motion sensor, or just set to go off in spurts randomly at the times that you know the deer make their rounds can be extremely frightening. The water spray would work well for anyone, however, keep in mind that it might not be the best idea for the health of your garden. Plants that sit in water overnight have a much higher risk of contracting a disease and from there it is all downhill. If scaring the deer is your aim, make sure to point the water spurts away from your garden plants so they are only watered at prime, non-damaging points.


The last scare factor listed here is the one that will take the most planning. Again, depending on the location and layout of your yard, this may or may not be an idea that fits for you. Some people are able to put up some sort of electric fence or wire at the crossing point where the deer normally entire their yard. If it is out of the way of children or anyone else that might try to come in and out, then wonderful! Every time the deer will come in and receive a shock, will be another deer that isn’t going to be likely to try that again.

4.     Have a Schedule and Design for the Garden

As we have already seen evidenced in a couple of the ideas given above, a lot of the methods used for keeping these pesky animals out are largely dependent on the layout of your yard. Knowing the pest problems in your area, then, and keeping this in the forefront of your mind when making up the design for your garden is going to be of big importance. Planting the plants, you want protected in a spot that is convenient for you to reach and see is important, as well as having safeguards in place at entrance points to your yard. If you yard is wide open and protecting access points really won’t be an option, then putting up some sort of border might be a good option. Another is the layering of plants that was talked about earlier. Yes, the deer might just step over these plants, but in a suburban area with plenty of other yards to bother, a couple of nasty flavors from yours may well be enough to send them packing. If you only have a couple of plants tucked here and there, it may be worth it to try and hang them around your house or on higher poles to keep them out of reach and more in the eye of the beholder anyway.

Another option is to have a planting schedule, or a rotation, that will start the year with plants you love but they will want to avoid. For example, instead of using tulips for a spring flower in the easy access spots for a deer, plant groups of daffodils to keep them from taking a munch. Also, using plants that are thornier will keep them at bay. If you have roses planted that both you and the deer seem to love, perhaps take the chance on swapping these out with even thornier varieties.

5.     Use Objects to Deter or Confuse the Deer

Considering how the mind of a deer and its daily routines work can really be helpful in the fight against them. Since it is their habit to snack in the quiet hours of the day and night, making your yard a place where this is almost impossible might really help your lawn not become one of their preferred stops. Using objects in your yard to create these deterrents is a great start.

Make a little noise                  

Just about everyone loves the sound a beautifully tuned wind chime swaying and making its music in the breeze. Everybody, that is, except for deer. They aren’t generally going to mind a soft symphony, however, as the noise starts getting louder and less consistent, this makes them uneasy and doesn’t encourage them to make themselves vulnerable by dipping down their heads and grabbing a quick bite. Using this option can be a great DIY project. Hanging something up, like tin cans strung on a line that will bang together when the wind comes up, is a great option as there really isn’t anything natural or normal about that sound. If it isn’t your preference to hear these sounds when working away in your garden, it may be a good idea to hang them in an area that is a bit farther away from your home, or in a place where they can be taken down easily if some garden respite is being sought.


Another option, this one noiseless, is to put up a scarecrow. Not just for scaring crows, a scarecrow can be a somewhat effective option to keep out for the deer. Deer are a little more intelligent than birds tend to be though, so keep in mind that if the scarecrow always stays in one place and never moves, the deer will stop eyeing it and may even become buddies. It is a good idea with this option to try and move it around the yard every once and a while or to rig something up that might allow it more movement. This could be harnessing the wind again and making it so his arms can swing around. There are many great DIY options for this as well and it is easy to have fun with!

6.     Build a Deer Fence

One of the most obvious ways to get deer out of your yard is simply to build a fence. Using the word ‘simply’ may not be entirely true though, as they are crafty and sometimes unless a fortress is made, they will often figure out how to get over, around or through it if they really want. Let’s look at two options, then, one of which will hopefully work wonders for you.

Make an Actual Fence

Building an actual fence is the apparent answer when we are talking about constructing a fence. This will often do the trick and there are many ways to make it work with your yard and keep it looking appealing. If nothing else has worked and every year you are ending up with a garden full of nubs, this might turn out to be your best option. However, depending on your housing codes and community ordinances, this may simply not be an option or choice for you.

Plant a hedge around your garden

Building a natural “fence” might be want you want to go with. Planting a hedge around your garden can retain the natural feel as well as stick to the ordinances. Plants that can grow as hedges can often be trimmed and controlled to a certain height and testing what is going to work best for your purposes and aesthetically in your yard is good idea. Some great plants for a hedge include boxwood, the classic hedging plant, as well as abelia, barberry, a thorny plant that will act as a deterrent in more than one way, cypress and euonymus. There are many others as well and they can be chosen for their foliage color, the flowering habits or their height.

7.     Don’t encourage other animals

Almost anyone who enjoys gardening will frequently be the kind of person that loves nature and wants to encourage less harmful creatures than deer to come in and make their garden a new home. However, when trying to get these other animals in, it only encourages the deer all the more and generally provides even more easy access foods. Doing things like feeding the birds or putting corn out for the squirrels are examples of this that can really see a spike in the amount of deer that are visiting. Things like this will also encourage other pests, like raccoons, possums, or even skunks, depending on where you live. If you just can’t live without watching the birds every morning with your cup of coffee in hand, then be sure to keep the area as clean as possible and do some research to make sure it is not easy access to anything other than the animal that you are hoping to attract.

8.     Use “Predators”

As we have noted in the other examples, deer are easily frightened because of their high awareness when looking for predators. A great way to harness this fear is to use actual “predators” and frighten them away. A recent study showed that 68% of American households own some sort of pet, with about 90 million of them being dogs. Letting your dog loose any time a deer is spotted, even just on a leash to bark and growl at them, is so off putting that it is practically guaranteed to keep the deer away from your yard.

9.     Surround Individual Plants

We all have those special plants in our gardens, the ones that we got ordered in from a distant place or that we inherited from a loved one that has the most beautiful blooms we have ever seen. If none of these other options seem to be working well and we are out of viable choices, what can we do to at least save these?

Wrap special plants

One great suggestion is to wrap your special plants. If they have more of a stem, then putting a covering over the bark to protect them is a great choice. If they are a bush or smaller perennial, try and make a mini fence for it to keep them from taking the tops or foliage off.

Create boundaries

A specific idea for a boundary around individual plants that won’t obscure them from being seen and enjoyed, but will likely keep the deer away from them, is to set up some poles around it and wrap fishing line. Deer have an extremely hard time understanding and seeing things that are transparent so getting caught up or stopped by the fishing line before they can get to the plant will keep them from trying too hard before they move on to another victim.

10. Use Sprays to Keep Deer Out

Frequently the option that people will think of first is to try out deer spray. There are so many options for this, so be sure to do your research on what seems to actually work for people, and those that are so diluted that it no longer has the desired effect.

When picking the sprays that you want to try out, first consider whether it is important to you that your yard and garden be chemical-free or not. Then, consider whether you want to try and make your own, or if you are going to make your life simpler by just swinging into your local outdoor store and buying some. There are going to be options that you can buy that will be organic and all natural, as well as stronger chemical ones. For any of the options that you decide to go with, be sure to closely follow the application instructions as it defeats the whole point if the chemical kills the plant instead of the deer.

Making your own deer spray at home is a very viable option as well. They are generally strong smelling, so be aware of this when getting ready to make it, perhaps not right before you have guests for the evening. Things like cayenne pepper, eggs or a dairy product all blended together may do the trick. Letting this marinate and get even stronger before spraying it will make it even more effective. Doing some research on the smells and ingredients that will be the best for you to use will open up a wide door of possibilities when making your own spray that is safe for people, your garden and other animal guests.

With the abundance of options that we have looked at today, there should be one for just about every type of person and yard that protects your yard and protects the deer that you don’t want in it. Good luck as you continue to try and find the balance between nature and our modern age of gardening!


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