Will the deer fence hold?

Thin, almost invisible netting separates my garden from this deer.
Thin netting separates my garden from this deer.

I’m determined to develop a garden on this corner of our property. Grass won’t even grow there, just weeds and wild strawberries. Over the 5 years that we’ve lived here, I’ve cleared a 15’x15′ patch and tried growing things like beans, potatoes and broccoli. But deer, and maybe rabbits, have munched whatever managed to grow – even potato plants, which surprised me as potato leaves are rather toxic.

This year, however, the recession and the spike in oil prices last year have got many of us thinking more about growing our own food. So I’m getting more serious with the garden. It’s time to learn to grow food!

The soil is terribly poor. Over the years, I’ve added a bit of seaweed and compost, but finally this year I paid for a load of manure. That was the first firm step of commitment.

The second step: a fence. But I needed to do it cheaply, using mostly materials at hand.

The only thing I actually had to buy was 100 ft of 7′ high “deer fence” – black plastic netting – from Lee Valley for about $27 plus shipping. For the support posts, I had some 8-foot lengths of old aluminum tubing from a shed structure which had collapsed in a winter storm some years ago, and some leftover copper pipe which happened to fit just inside the aluminum tubes.

To erect the support posts, I pounded 4′ lengths of the copper tubing halfway into the ground with a sledge hammer, then used a plumber’s pipe-cutting tool to cut off the top bit that had got mashed by the force of the sledge. The aluminum tubing slid over the copper and another foot or so into the ground. Hopefully it will be strong enough at the level of the ground to withstand bending forces. In fact, I haven’t had to run guy lines or construct inside props to support my fence posts.

Then I attached the deer netting to the posts, which have boltholes at the top and halfway down, with plastic ties. I cut pegs from twigs and hammered them through the netting into the ground to keep the rabbits out, although there are a few gaps which concern me where the netting doesn’t reach the ground.

The black netting is practically invisible from a distance, so I’ve run plastic flagging tape around the perimeter halfway up for the deer to see. Deer can jump up to seven feet high, so I need to finish the job by running more tape all the way around the top. Another thing to buy.

So far so good. But with the weather we’ve had, the garden is growing slowly, so the temptation may not yet be very great. The wild strawberries are much more interesting to grazers (me included). Stay tuned.  [Update on the deer fence, July 3, 2010]

3 Replies to “Will the deer fence hold?”

    1. I wish I had left the deer fence up. Then I’d know better how durable it is. We get a lot of wind here, but it survived all the near-hurricanes in the fall. I did leave the poles up, and they’re OK.

      I took the netting down because it’s right along the edge of the garden and I figured it would be easier to use the rototiller without the netting there.

      Lesson to take away: leave a foot or more between the edge of your garden and the fence. That also gives you a path to walk around.

      As I was taking it down, I found that grass and weeds along the edge were holding it to the ground – which is good: it would help keep out rabbits. I damaged the netting somewhat as I was removing it; another reason to leave it up.

      I’ll put it up again this year, and will have to buy more since I’m expanding the garden. The existing poles are hard to remove so they’ll have to stay, but any new poles will be a distance away from the open soil.

      And I’m happy to report that no deer or rabbits got into the garden last year. It was a low year for rabbits, though.

      I will write again about my deer fence adventures.

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