Every year, I buy flowers for my garden that I know won’t be eaten by the deer and rabbits that frequent my yard from the woods across the street. However, I also like to plant vegetables too. It is always a struggle to keep them from munching on the leaves of my pumpkin plants or squashing my tomatoes before they even have a chance to ripen. So, I did some research and tried a number of techniques to keep my vegetable gardens off limits to these creatures. Below are the methods that have worked for me.
Deer and Rabbit Repellent Spray
This spray can be found at any home improvement store. It can be pricey (about $15-$20 per bottle) but will last you all year. If you live in a rainy area, you’ll have to apply it often, at least once or twice a week. Also, you cannot spray fruit or vegetable plants directly. So, I recommend spraying around the area or planting wildflowers nearby and spraying those so that the animals keep away from that area in general. Also, it smells really bad, and if you spray yourself, you’re going to need a shower to get the smell off of you. I never get through an entire bottle before the solution inside hardens so try to use it up before the end of your growing season.
Deer do not like the smell of marigolds. So, you'll never see them munching on them. Use this to your advantage. Plant marigolds around the perimeter of your vegetable garden to detract them from the vegetables.
Irish Spring Soap
I’ve read about several methods for utilizing Irish Spring Soap to keep deer away. They don't like the odor of this soap. Neither do I, but I've been using it in my garden for the past two years, and it seems to help. Originally, I grated the soap and sprinkled it on the ground around my vegetables, but it disappeared too fast. Others have suggested tying the bars over the garden area, but I don’t really have a place to hang them, and it would look strange and tacky. So, I just threw the entire bar into the center of the garden, and that seems to work well. The same bar of soap has stayed in my garden all spring and summer without melting, even after several rain storms.
Red Pepper Flakes
I credit this tip as being the main tool for keeping my vegetables safe all summer. Each week, I sprinkle my gardens with red pepper flakes. It is recommended to start with one application per week and then cut back to once every two weeks as summer goes on. I’ve been too afraid to cut back, and the flakes are cheap. You can buy a large container for $1 in the grocery or dollar stores. The flakes supposedly burn their paws and keep them from entering your garden at all. There is a rabbit hole just a few feet away from one of my vegetable gardens, and not one plant has been touched by a rabbit.
Fencing and String
I bought a chain link fence to surround my backyard specifically to keep out animals only to find that the deer can jump it and the rabbits can crawl under it quite easily. So, this year I inserted stakes (actually old curtain rods) around my vegetable gardens and made a kind of string maze around them. It’s not very tall, and some areas are large enough for a rabbit to squeeze through or a deer to step over, but so far, they haven’t come through. This does make weeding the gardens difficult. I usually have to lift the stakes to get in and then re-stake them when I’m finished. This tangles the string, but it’s a small price to pay to keep my vegetables from being eaten. Next year, I plan to buy some tall, deer-proof fencing to wrap around my gardens, but string works too.
When it comes to keeping animals away from your plants, it doesn’t hurt to try multiple, if not all of the above-mentioned techniques. After all, it takes a lot of time and effort to harvest home grown fruits and vegetables, and you don’t want it turning into a free salad bar for the local critters.
What techniques have you tried to keep animals away from your garden? Leave your successes and failures in the comments below!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: We have vegetable boxes. Something is eating our young radish and cabbage leaves off to the dirt at night. We have fencing around the boxes. We thought it was rabbits but it's still happening. Could it be squirrels in the early morning? We live by a cornfield. It's not deer cause it's a few plants at a time. What else could it be?
Answer: I would guess squirrels or chipmunks. Do you see any little paw prints in the dirt? You could try to set up a camera to see if it shows the culprit. I would try the red pepper flakes as well. If it's a small animal, they might back off if they come in contact with the flakes on their paws.
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on June 30, 2019:
Yes, the deer fence that I put up each year seems to be the most effective method. Everything else seems to be a temporary deterrent.
Jessica on June 30, 2019:
It sounds like you're using multiple methods to keep critters out. Have you tried using just one method for a period of time to see which one is working best?
JT on June 01, 2019:
Mix a 32 once spray bottle with water 1 egg yoke and one heaping table spoon of baking powder. Keep shaking bottle when spraying to keep ingredients mixed. Reapply after watering or rain. I use this on my rose and vegetable garden...it works.
Mickey on June 13, 2018:
What about using baby powder or human hair