How to keep deer out of your garden (14 different ways)

One of my least favorite parts of gardening is battling the deer. It seems that every year just when I think everything is growing great, I find evidence of deer in my garden. This time it was my bulbs that had just sprouted. The deer had eaten my lily's down to just stubs. While this is heartbreaking, unfortunately it's nothing new for me. I live in an area with a lot of wildlife so it just makes sense that the deer will get in my garden and treat it like an all you can eat buffet.

Deer in garden.

I have tried just about everything to keep deer out of my garden. From fences to scare tactics, I've done it all and it sort of works. The biggest problem with keeping deer out of your garden is that they will adapt rapidly to anything you may try. Yes, many different tactics may work, but nothing that works well works forever.

How to keep deer out of the garden

The most effective deterrents for 4 footed garden pests are physical barriers like fences or netting's. Garden fences should be 8 feet tall to be most effective against deer. Some people have luck with shrub walls if they're very thick and dense.


Floating row covers: these can be placed over low plants to protect them from the deer. This works well to keep plants safe in spring though you may have to remove them as the heat of summer sets in.

Plants with textures deer don't like: woody ornamental grasses and fuzzy lambs ear are some plants deer don't seem to favor. Here is a complete list of Plants Rated By Deer Resistance by Rutgers University.

Plant strong smelling herbs: lavender, patchouli, lemongrass, yarrow, onions, garlic, rosemary, oregano & catmint. The strong scent of these herbs helps block out the yummy scents of the rest of the garden keeping deer away from the garden.

Egg spray: 1 raw egg per 1 quart of water. Blend well then strain out the thick parts before pouring into a spray bottle. The sulfur smell is what repels the deer. The scent is supposedly worse for deer then it is for people, I just wouldn't spray it the day before you're giving a garden tour!

Hot pepper spray: Soak hot pepper flakes in water overnight. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on foliage. Reapply after it rains. For an even stronger concoction, add a few crushed cloves of garlic to the mixture. I show how I make it here: 8 Tips to keep rabbits out of your garden.

deer | garden

Close to harvest time when you don't want to spray anything on the plants, you could soak a rag in any of these deterrents and hang it in your garden on a short garden flag pole.

Mark the garden with urine. When walking your dog make sure you walk around the garden so he can mark the area. The deer will smell him, think there's a predator nearby and stay away. This works no matter how small your dog is. You could also use human urine so if you have some young boys tell them it's ok to "water" the gardens edge!

You can also purchase coyote or fox urine to apply. I don't recommend this if you have chickens or other livestock since it can also attract coyotes or foxes. If you don't have small animals to worry about though, this is a very popular deer repellent.

Soap: this seems to be a popular method. Some say Irish Spring and others swear by Ivory soap. Whichever one you choose, the important part is to grate the soap and hang it in mesh bags around your garden. I use the small lemon bags from the store, but old pantyhose work well too.

Human hair: hung in mesh bags about 3 feet high, the scent of human hair may deter deer. Ask your hairdresser to save some hair for you on your next visit.

Blood meal powder can be sprinkled around the edges of the garden also to deter deer.

Let the dog out. Between marking his territory and barking at deer, having a dog can help keep deer away. Deer are smart enough to catch on though if you keep your dog in a kennel or on a lead, and they'll just stay away from the dog but not the garden.

Anything with a sensor: sprinklers that are motion activated or lights that suddenly turn on in their faces. Anything that will pop on the second deer walk by can startle the deer and send them scurrying from the garden.

Scare tactics: lights, cd's hanging from fishing line, wind chimes, scarecrows, chimes, radios, hanging scare balls. These all seemed to work for me for awhile, but ended up losing their effectiveness over time.

deer netting over a herb garden

Deer netting, also called bird netting can be attached to the top of lower fences so it hangs over the plants. The problem with that method is stooping under the netting to actually garden, or having to fold it back each time you want access. 

I have had deer jump into the garden with the netting on. There was no damage to the plants but the netting was ripped apart when she landed. She didn't come back after that though, so....

It can also help to just throw deer netting over plants when they are small. This works especially well in the early spring when there isn't much else for the deer to eat. Leave the netting on as the plant grows a bit to give it a fighting chance.

Deer deterrents that don't work: 
Keeping deer favorite plants close to the house. I forget where I read this one, but the lily's under one of the bedroom windows gets nibbled almost every it's definitely not true.

Motion lights on your house: Unless the garden is right next to the house, then it might help while people are home and awake. The deer will quickly get used to these. To be effective a motion light should be in the garden and moved often.

You'll rarely find one tactic that will work to keep all the deer out of your garden all the time. To increase your chance of protecting your plants, try doubling or even tripling up on your deer deterrent techniques. You might even want to use different methods on a rotation and change it up every few weeks.

Keep in mind that if deer get hungry enough, nothing but a tall fence is going to keep them from eating from your garden. However in normal conditions and with a bit of vigilance you should be able to keep the deer from doing too much damage to your garden.

Having problems with different types of critters snacking on your garden too? Click here for my other posts on deterring garden pests!


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  1. We have a terrible problem with deer eating our vegetables and plants, too. I'm pinning this article for future reference. Thanks!

    1. It's so frustrating, isn't it? Hope this post helps!


  2. Great tips. Thanks for sharing at To Grandmas House We Go. Scheduled to Pinterest too.

  3. Awesome tips! You'll be featured at the To Grandma's House We go link party that opens tomorrow morning, thanks for sharing with us!

  4. HI Lisa,
    You have some great ideas on deer deterrents. Where we live we don't have problems with deer but ground hogs, but my where my sister lives nearby she is constantly evaded by deer. Congratulations on being featured on Homestead blog hop.Pinned & tweeted!

  5. We have a terrible problem with elk. I'm pinning this and will try them all!!! Thank you!!

    1. Oh my....I would faint if I saw an elk in my garden. It's bad enough we have bears! Good luck with the elk!


  6. I've heard that Fels Naptha soap is being used as well, don't know about getting it here in Canada so I'll try the Irish Spring

  7. Hello Lisa !
    I use the egg solution myself and it works fantastic !
    We lived in a state park in Missouri where my husband was the superintendent. We had hundreds of deer in over 250 acres and they were eating everything. I had a old farmer tell me the following recipe and I still use it and it works !

    Take a gallon milk jug, water, 6 eggs and a couple of squirts of dish soap. This solution has to sit for at least a week to ferment so it will stink and keep the deer away.
    I fill the jug about 3/4 full of water before adding the eggs and soap. I also mix the eggs well before adding them to the jug and then slowly add the eggs to the water. I don't fill it completely to allow room for gases from the eggs.
    Put it outside in a outbuilding or garage for use and I strain it into a spray bottle because of the egg whites. I use a spray bottle that has a strainer end on the inside tube that prevents clogs and that really helps.

    I spray this in the evening outside my garden and never on the plants. The solution will burn the leaves of plants because it happened to me.
    I never had a problem again with the deer and now that we are retired I still use it in my garden.

    I love your newsletter and I look forward to seeing it appear in my email each month.

  8. I've been using a solution of water, eggs and dawn . You use a empty milk jug, 6 eggs, dawn and water. I fill the jug three quarters full of water, add a squirt of dawn and the mixed eggs slowly ( because of the foam from the eggs. Place the mixture in a garage or outside storage area. It will be stinky but chase the deer away. Use a spray bottle with a filter on the inside tube, because the eggs will clog the tube otherwise. I lived in a state park with lots of deer that were eating everything. I started using this every evening and it worked. I still use this every year. Please don't get the solution on your plant, it will burn the leaves. I spray a foot outside the edge of my gardens spray at night and by morning most of the smell has left.

    1. Thanks for sharing your deer repellant recipe! It does sound stinky but I bet it works by confusing their sense of smell and making them think there is nothing edible here! I'm going to try it!