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How I Got Creative to Keep Critters Out of the Garden

When I started our garden a few years ago, my only thoughts were about growing tasty and nutritious vegetables. It didn’t take long before I realized there were other creatures that wanted to share in the bounty without my approval. Rabbits sure do like green leafy vegetables. And deer are another story. We’re not talking cute little Bambi here. A master gardener once told me they have a nickname for deer – “rats with hooves.” They are so right as I eventually found out.

Once I expanded the garden to several beds, rabbits started showing up. I decided it was time for a fence. I installed a fence around the garden with metal fence posts and 48” tall chicken wire. The fence posts are easily pounded into the ground and have hooks on them to secure the wire.

Metal Fence Post

Metal Fence Post


The chicken wire could be fastened to the ground with wire anchors, but that would only keep the wire against the ground and prevent gaps where critters could crawl under. I had read that you should do something to prevent animals from digging under the fence. Some people suggested digging a trench and partially burying the wire, but that seemed like a lot of work not to mention the fact that it would shorten the height of the fence. I like to be more efficient with my efforts so I started brainstorming for a better way to prevent digging.

In my earlier post One Man’s Trash, I talked about how I save everything. I had some old wire shelving stored away. It’s the white stuff they sell at the big box stores. I was looking at one day and had an idea – cut the middle support out and turn it into 2 pieces that look like giant combs. It will only work if you have the type in the picture with the heavy piece right in the middle. I cut the smaller wire on each side of the center picture along the red lines in the picture. The resulting pieces can be pounded into the ground to form a 6” deep barrier to burrowing animals. I’ve had this in place for several years and have never had an animal dig underneath the fence.

Wire Shelves

Wire Shelves

With the 4’ fence in place, I thought I had a good barrier. I had heard that deer would jump a fence that high but I didn’t believe it. Then it happened. I had just planted several beds of sweet potatoes. I was checking on the garden one day and several of the sweet potatoes were gone. Apparently sweet potato leaves are like candy to deer. I was disappointed, but stubbornly and somewhat stupidly I bought more sweet potato plants and replaced the ones that had been eaten. A few days later I came home from work to find the deer had come back – and this time they ate even more of the sweet potatoes. I was devastated. I had to do something creative to keep them out before they got to the rest of the plants.

I was desperate and willing to try anything. I thought an 8’ tall fence might be necessary but that would be expensive. I only had a couple hours before dark, so there was no time to do anything elaborate. It had to be really creative. I came up with an idea I wanted to try. I spliced extensions to the fence posts using some old metal shelf brackets I had used for tomato stakes. I tied them to the fence posts using some heavy wire with about 2’ of overlap. I had a roll of very strong nylon string in my workshop that had been around for years. Using the string, I made several passes around the perimeter of the garden sort of like the ropes around a boxing ring. This would form a basic fence structure but it would never keep a deer out if it didn’t see the string. To get their attention, I tied pieces of yellow caution tape to the string, like the stuff the police use. This would let the deer see something was there. The tape said “Caution.” My wife kidded me that the deer can’t read. Well it turns out I think maybe they can read. They have never crossed that line again. I never went back and installed a taller fence because the cheap solution worked so well. The nylon string is very durable and still there after several years. I have to replace the yellow tape every couple years because it falls apart but it is easy to do. I admit the yellow tape looked pretty goofy, but it was a cheap and effective solution. Not everything has to be complicated.

Creative Garden Fence

Creative Garden Fence

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