Do you have deer in your garden and need a deer fence? We did too…until we built this simple deer fence to keep the deer at bay!
We've been wanting a large vegetable garden for a few years now (living in Ohio, our soil is amazing for gardening)! But the huge number of deer (and bunnies, possums, skunks, wild turkeys, you name it…) has held us back each year. We figured the garden would just become their backyard buffet!
My husband got bored last summer, grabbed a shovel, and turned over a 4′ x 8′ area in the far corner of our yard. So we tried our first Ohio garden in 2019.
He planted corn, bush beans, peppers, and tomatoes.
Every single time anything sprouted (and we got all excited to finally see the fruits of our labor!), we would go out and check the garden. Only to find every single plant chewed up or eaten. 🙁
Deer tracks and deer poop were left behind as evidence of the perpetrators every day. Needless to say, last year's garden was a failure.
So this year, my husband declared . . . “If you can't beat 'em, try harder.”
When quarantine started in early March, he decided this year to make the garden a wee bit bigger.
He grabbed a shovel and enlarged the garden to 8′ x 12′. I guess he was thinking that if we planted more, the deer would get full and leave a little for us?
Even while turning the dirt over to prepare for the garden, he noticed on his morning garden walks that the recently turned dirt was constantly covered in fresh deer tracks.
Now any normal guy would just give up. Throw in the towel. And hand the garden right over to the deer.
But, what did he decide to do?
As we neared planting season (and when quarantine just made us all need something to do), my family created a solution to solve our deer problem.
WE BUILT A DEER FENCE.
Of course, building a simple small fence would be too easy to deter those deer away. We had proof, because we already have a 4-foot high post board fence along the back of our yard behind our house. And the deer just jump right over without thinking twice.
We needed to find the minimum height required for a deer fence.
If you look for deer fence options, you'll notice that some places say they need to be 6 to 10 feet tall.
Um, that would have looked a little crazy around our small-ish 8′ x 12′ garden.
So we compromised.
James expanded the garden one more time to make it 12′ x 20′ (way too big for a turning over with a shovel anymore. Which meant he got to make one of his best gardening purchases ever. A Sun Joe TJ603E 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller and Cultivator from Amazon. If you're looking for a tiller, this one works great!
After the soil was broken up in the garden, it was time to set the posts for the deer fence. As I mentioned earlier, we compromised on the height of the garden. James read in one of his gardening books that there were a few other options that would prevent a deer from jumping over a fence.
We learned that deer wouldn't jump over the fence when…
- They couldn't see the other side where they would land, or
- They would land in an enclosed small space. (Who knew deer were so smart to know they'd land in a small space? I had no idea!)
We are by no means deer fence experts (let alone deer experts!). But there was no way I was going to let James build a a 10 foot high box in our back yard. (Although he would have had the best time building it ~ he's like a kid out there with oversized Tinker Toys!).
So we settled on a 5 foot high fence.
Here's what came next in building the deer fence . . .
The posts were created using 3-in x 4-in x 8-ft landscape timbers from Lowe's. When setting the posts, James added an extra foot to the dimension of the garden. This was so we could maintain the 12′ x 20′ desired planting area that we tilled. It allows us to till the same dimension garden in the future without getting up against the fence.
The Post Holes
We dug the post holes for the fence with a post hole digger by hand, to a depth of about 3 feet. Then we filled the hole for the first foot or so with QUIKRETE 50-lb Bulk All-purpose Gravel to help stabilize the posts. We didn't want to set them in concrete because if we ever want a larger garden, it would be easier to pull up and expand. (Also, if it didn't work as a deer fence, it would be easier to fix later.) 🙂
How We Set The Posts
After filling the rest of the holes with dirt and packing in tightly, we were ready to place the remaining posts. We placed one on each corner, and a post in the middle of the 20 foot long side. Remember, the spacing on this side is now at 11′ because we added the extra foot on the outside of the tilled area.
We set eight posts in total, because we needed two for the area where the future gate would land down the center aisle. When setting these two posts for the gate, James made sure to space them at least 4-feet apart. This allowed room for the new tiller, and won't feel tight as we enter the garden.
The Fence Boards
After the posts were set, we started measuring and placed the top row of board fencing. We used 1-in x 4-in x 12-ft boards to create the sides of the deer fence. They were cut in appropriate lengths so that the boards would be able to be attached to the posts.
For the 20-foot side, the board was cut to go to the middle of the post so we could leave room to screw the adjacent fence board on that same post. We then used 3-foot pieces of the same 1-in x 4-in boards to cover the posts where these boards were screwed to the posts to hide the cuts. It also gave a finished look to the deer fence. All these boards were attached with 2 inch galvanized screws.
Chicken Wire For Smaller Critters
After setting the top row, we used chicken wire to wrap the entire deer fence posts along the ground. (While it's a deer fence, we also wanted it to keep out the smaller critters.)
We started at one of the door posts and wrapped the entire garden, ending at the other door post. Every time the chicken wire got to a post, we made sure it sat tightly on the ground. Then, pulled it tight, and then attached it to the post with a simple staple gun and staples.
Once the bottom 4ft of the deer fence was wrapped with chicken wire (where smaller animals could climb through), we placed the bottom two rows of board fence. We maintained the constant spacing of 8.5 inches between these rows of board fence.
After these two rows were set, we used the staple gun to attach the top of the chicken wire to the middle row of fence board. Due to the 5-foot height, we could have used a four row fence, but we decided to go with a three row fence to match the exiting post board fence along the farm behind our house. This is also how we set the spacing between these rows at 8.5 inches.
(However you set your boards, be sure to make enough space for the row of boards so that the chicken wire can hit on that row. This will allow you to staple the chicken wire fence to the boards.)
Designing The Gate
The last step to building our deer fence was designing the gate. Because the garden entrance is on a bit of a hill in our yard, this was a wee bit more difficult to design. James made sure to set the hinges of the gate so it would swing from the high side to the low side. (This is important so that the bottom of the gate doesn't hit the ground as it opens). It also allowed him to add the chicken wire all the way to ground and protect the garden when the gate is closed.
James used two more of the 3-in x 4-in landscape timbers, measured the existing posts from the ground that formed the gate opening and subtracted 2 inches. Since our posts were 5 foot high, these posts were 4-ft 10 in tall.
Measure twice, cut once
The reason we measured instead of just doing the math, was that if the posts weren't exactly 5 ft high, we would have had to cut twice. James's dad always said “measure twice, cut once.” That is a pretty good lesson, so we stuck with it.
After cutting these two timbers, we measured the opening between the gate posts, which happened to be just a little over 4 ft (good thing we measured twice!). We cut the boards for the post board fence and screwed them to the timbers at the same angle and spacing as the fence on either side of the gate.
Just as we did on the deer fence, we added the top board first. Then the chicken wire at the bottom of the gate, stapled it along the outside two timbers, then secured the bottom two boards. A final board was added to the back of the gate at an angle running from the top side of the hinge to the bottom of the gate. This provides additional support for the gate and will keep it from sagging over time.
And our deer fence was complete.
As crazy has this quarantine season has been (whew!), it has allowed our family to tackle building a deer fence for our garden. It's done very well in keeping out all the animals so far. And not just the deer, but all the animals from what we can tell!
We still see deer every night in the farm behind our house and plenty of tracks in our yard. But so far no signs of the deer or animals touching the corn, bush beans, snap peas, cabbage lettuce, tomatoes, zinnia, or green peppers.
I keep worrying that we'll wake up to a deer caught in the fence (eek!). But instead they're happily staying in the rest of our yard (meaning our veggies are happily growing).
We're by no means expert gardeners over here. But we do love our yard, tinkering outside, and planting just about anything green that we can convince to grow.
If you'd like to see a few more of our garden projects, here you go:
- Begonia Planting: Make a Beautiful Front Yard Without Too Much Work
- How to Create Beautiful Hanging Baskets on a Budget
- Automatic Watering System (my hubby's a genius)!
- How To Create a Raised Bed Garden
- How To Reuse Plants for Container Gardens
(As an aside, James wanted to try square foot gardening this year also instead of planting in rows to try it out. So that was the reason behind the 12′ x 20′ dimension. We could plant in 4′ long x 2′ wide boxes in the garden and still have a 4′ walk way down the middle for entering the deer fence garden. This also facilitated picking and has worked well so far!).
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