Oh Deer, Not AGAIN

Posted by on Apr 7, 2010 in Farm Blog, Garden, Orchard | 27 comments

Our deer win the award for persistence!  In our prior post we were lamenting the fact that despite our best efforts this winter, the local cervids have out-smarted us.  A 7-foot perimeter fence around the orchard and gardens proved that it wasn’t sufficient to keep our browsing deer at bay.

 

I'm sure the deer are laughing at us...

This last weekend we installed the second run of fence at the top of the slope, to prevent deer charging down the hill from launching themselves into the orchard.  We don’t question that this has helped, but yesterday, it was apparent that it wasn’t enough.  It’s clear that on Monday night, our defenses were breached again.  This picture will give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem.  Our deer seem to travel in small gangs…

 

How many deer do you see? (click to enlarge image)

Three sets of evidence were found for the Monday night orchard raid.  New hoof prints in fresh mud, visible as a result of the weekend rains.

 

One cloven hoof print...

A second bank of agapanthus, uphill from the first, was chewed, and the damage was so fresh, the leaves were still oozing.

 

A mortally wounded Agapanthus...

They clearly had returned to the Satsuma and Santa Rosa plum, both of which now have tufts of leaves at the top of the trees, but have been stripped completely bare below.  New damage was evident on the Blenheim apricot, that had been previously untouched.  This tree is on standard rootstock, and even though young, is quite sizable.  Well…it used to be.

 

Blenheim apricot branch stripped...except for one lone fruit. Now I know they're snickering at us...

This has become a battle of wills.  The deer may be persistent…but I’m stubborn, really really stubborn, and refuse to give up on our gardens.  So last night we had no choice but to fortify the perimeter before dark.  One more night of unabated browsing could mean an untimely end for our poor plum trees!

The problem this time is there was no concrete evidence for an entry point.  Our best guess was that the deer were gaining entry from the small sloping meadow on the western flank of the orchard.  It’s really  the only remaining open area that isn’t double-fenced. Just in case though, we decided to fortify the entire perimeter.

The thought was to not only raise the height of the fence, but to slant the top of the fence away from the orchard around the entire perimeter, to give the illusion that the fence is wider.  You’ve probably seen similar applications with barb wire on angle brackets above chain link fences. Unfortunately, there are no heavy-duty deer fence suppliers nearby, so we needed to be creative for the angle brackets, and instead of barb wire (which we never use) we would use the same 12 gauge mono-filament that we also used to support the top of the fence.

 

Our prototype bracket. 45-Degree PVC coupler, reducer bushing, and pipe to support the mono-filament

First we needed the support brackets, and none were available locally, so we made our own.  We used 1.5 inch PVC 45-degree angle couplers set on the top of the angle-iron fence posts.  To this we added a 1.5-1.0 inch reducer bushing, and a 20-inch length of schedule 40 PVC pipe. The pipe was drilled with three holes, spaced 3 inches apart to thread the mono-filament through.  The PVC assembly was screwed into place atop the posts, and we pulled mono-filament around the entire perimeter.  To make the brackets blend in with the rest of the fence, a quick spray with some black spray paint did the trick.

 

Mono-filament is pulled through pre-drilled holes in the PVC pipe, and the pipe is sprayed black to match the fence

We ran out of mono-filament, but had enough to go around the entire perimeter once, and twice on one side.  We’ll add more to the brackets when the new mono-filament arrives.

This morning there was no evidence that the deer returned.  Tonight however will be the true test, as this afternoon I’m going to plant out some sacrificial lettuce in this new garden bed.

Now for the true test...we'll plant some lettuce...and see what happens

Will this be enough to keep the deer out?  We’ll have to wait and see what happens…but I really hope we’ve now excluded them from the orchard for good.

27 Comments

  1. I found this fascinating! And I shouldn’t, I mean, fencing? I had no idea deer were so versatile in their strategies–I will be ready for that great day when I own a larger plot in the country. This whole story makes me think of my battle with rabbits. I’m going to line all of my fence bottoms with chicken wire, buried 6″ in the ground. That’ll be a fun week.
    .-= Benjamin´s last blog ..Pasque Flower Power Rangers =-.

  2. Very smart, clever & somewhat devious. This is a high compliment…

  3. Oh yes, deer are clever and cause lots of trouble. I have heard about hanging heavily scented soap around can sometimes help. Good luck.

  4. Every time I see gardeners posting about deer I start to second guess my desire to eventually move out of the city and live on farmland. The one thing about being downtown is that my biggest mammal problems are raccoons (who are generally distracted by people’s garbage cans).

    Nice job on your deer fence!
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..How to Grow Peas as Quick Harvest Greens (and Use Up Old Seed Packets) =-.

  5. Wow. I used to love reading about medieval fortifications when I was little. Good luck with your deer proofing.
    .-= lisa´s last blog ..Completely Enchanting! =-.

  6. Good luck, hope it works this time. We know deer can get in our garden and we hope when they do, not much is damaged.
    .-= Randy´s last blog ..Swallowtails in the Redbud trees! =-.

  7. Good luck with your Deer Wars! I’m with Eliza…I’ve always wanted acreage in the country, but I guess there’s a price to pay.

  8. ooh ooh, my fingers are crossed for you. I am so thankful I do not have to deal with these critters.
    .-= Jess´s last blog ..I Think I Can, I Think I Can =-.

  9. Dear CV, What a further tale of woe. Oh dear, what can one say? I do so admire your persistence and resilience in the face of the adversary. Lesser mortals would, I am sure, have given up long before now.

    I do so hope for you that the new barricades prove to be effective. My only concern is that once the deer are permanently excluded, will you be forever trapped inside?!! I love the captions to your pictures!
    .-= Edith Hope´s last blog ..Get Ahead – Wear a Hat =-.

  10. Wow, that fence is starting to look more than impressive. But if I read next that you are building yourself a turret with a spotlight, I’m going to start worrying 😀
    No, seriously, I hope you’ve got them foxed this time!
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..A Delightful Visitor – The Eastern Spinebill =-.

  11. We shall fight in the fields, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender, whatever the cost may be. (with respect to Winston Churchill).
    .-= Deborah at Kilbourne Grove´s last blog ..Flower Power =-.

  12. That comment is for you, let’s hope the deer never heard the speech, lol.
    .-= Deborah at Kilbourne Grove´s last blog ..Flower Power =-.

  13. Keep plugging away, you’ll get them in the end……I know some people you could call to take care of this problem……wink, wink, nod, nod…..

  14. I think you’ve got it! My deer research for my upcoming program at the home show recommends the double fence because deer can jump high but are unable to jump high and wide. I admire your determination! I have a 7 foot arbor with vines growing from the bottom of the fence to the top. They don’t jump this fence I think because they can see the thick plantings all along the fence. One year they did skinny through a spot where I had some of the string missing. Since I’m in town, they can’t get a running start or I would be doomed.
    .-= GloriaBonde´s last blog ..Roses for the Home Show =-.

  15. I don’t have the deer problem quite like you do. But hanging old CD’s so they swing in the breeze, will sometimes scare off the deer.
    good luck with the problem.
    .-= keewee´s last blog ..Mutter, mutter #%@* #^ Crows =-.

  16. I just read that if the deer can’t see the other side they won’t jump. Maybe if the topper pieces don’t work you can insert pieces of plastic slatting in the grid to block the sight line of the deer???

  17. Oh, my goodness, CV, what a trying time for you! Crossing my fingers the new fencing held last night and the sacrifice was found sufficient. They are just *driven* to getting in to eat the goodies… and I confess I do wonder how the heck they’re getting out, if it takes a running jump from a slope just to get in.

    We aren’t allowed, of course, to put up permanent fences here on our rental property — but you’ve just made me glad we did not even try for temporary ones, but rather learned to live with our deer visitors. I’d never have succeeded against them this way!
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..the volunteers =-.

  18. wow Clare I hope this new tactic works this time. I love your determination.
    .-= Rosie´s last blog ..We’re on flood watch =-.

  19. I can’t believe they came back again! Don’t they realize the fence means to keep out 🙂 I hope the mono-filament works this time. It seems like it would get pretty frustrating to have to keep trying to find a method to stop them from eating the orchard.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The garden shed. =-.

  20. No doubt the deer are having a counsel right now, drawing up plans for surmounting your defenses. I suspect, however, in the end you will win. Maybe a well-trained guard dog?
    .-= debsgarden´s last blog ..BBG Japanese Garden, a Stroll in Heaven =-.

  21. Oh, how upsetting. I always realize that this whole in harmony with nature thing is harder in practice than in theory. I so hope you’ll be able to protect your little trees!

  22. I guess the deer view the fence as an irresistible challenge 🙂 How frustrating for you though.
    .-= melanie´s last blog ..When Do Hostas Sprout In Zone Three =-.

  23. What’s the problem? I love deer!

  24. I didn’t know deer like Satsuma. Interesting.

  25. We have elk that give us fits too…well they did until we got the camel. He chases all the deer and elk off. Hey I know…get yourselves a camel, lol!

    Seriously good luck, deer although love creatures are so very destructive to a garden. Kim
    .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Planting Potatoes in Straw hills and Garden Contest =-.

  26. So plan C is get a big freezer for venison?
    You’d think they’d have enough to eat with all the rain we had this winter! If it’s bad for them now, I can’t imagine what August will be like!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Random Acts of Art =-.

  27. For once I am grateful that I only have squirrels to contend with. Perhaps one deer stands still while the others use him as a springboard over the fence 🙂
    .-= easygardener´s last blog ..My April Flower: Fritillaria meleagris =-.