Preventing deer and rabbits from entering your garden or plot

A deer munching on tree foliage. Inset image: an alert rabbit.

As winter draws in, wildlife ventures further afield in search of food sources. Deer and rabbits are lovely at a distance (or in Disney movies) but can devastate a cultivated plot of flowers or vegetables. Keeping them out is a challenge, but there are several measures you can take to help protect your plants and landscaping.

Here are some that you can consider:

Install Fencing

This is your primary defence and one of the most effective ways to keep deer and rabbits out. Use a sturdy wire fence that is at least 2.5m (8ft) tall for deer and 1.5m (4ft) tall for rabbits, with the fence buried to 15cm (6in) to stop rabbits burrowing underneath. (If you have larger deer, such as red deer, in your area, the fence may have to be higher – see this guide.) It’s worth doing a really good job on this, so if fencing is not your forte, enlist help or pay someone to do it for you; it will be a good investment.

Use Deer or Rabbit-Resistant Plants

Choose plants that are less attractive to deer and rabbits. While no plant is completely deer or rabbit-proof, some are less appealing to them. The RHS have compiled a list of plants less susceptible to deer and a separate list for rabbits.  However, as they note, a hungry herbivore will try most plants!

Barrier repellents

Certain smells will deter deer and rabbits but you may need to experiment to find out what works for you and your local wildlife.  The British Deer Society suggests options for deer repellents here (including human hair and lion dung…) and this website offers up hot and spicy recipes to keep rabbits at bay. Perfumed soap is also anecdotally recommended for keeping deer and rabbits away. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to reapply the repellent after heavy rain.

Keep precious plants close

Deer in particular are less likely to come close to houses or other areas of human activity, so if you have a choice of plots, it’s worth putting your favourite (or deer favourite) plants closer to minimise the likelihood of damage.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers can startle and deter animals when they enter your garden and are effective for both deer and rabbits.

Netting and Fleece Covers

Cover vulnerable plants with netting or fleece covers to physically block access to them. This is particularly useful for protecting delicate flowers.

Prune and Elevate

Keep your garden tidy by trimming any low-hanging branches or tall grasses that might provide cover for rabbits or access for deer. Elevate plants in containers or hanging baskets to make them less accessible.

Secure Compost and Rubbish

Make sure compost piles and waste containers are securely covered to avoid attracting wildlife.

Natural Plant Barriers

Consider planting barrier plants, like thorny bushes or shrubs, around the perimeter of your plot to make it harder for animals to access.

Scare Tactics

Use scare tactics like scarecrows, noise-making devices (wind chimes, radios), or reflective objects such as aluminium foil strips to startle trespassing creatures and frighten them away.

Dogs or other Pets

A well-trained dog can help deter deer and rabbits from entering your plot as their presence and scent serves as a natural deterrent.

Remember that different regions may have different wildlife challenges, so it’s important to research which animals are common in your area and tailor your prevention measures accordingly. A combination of these strategies may be most effective in keeping deer and rabbits out of your garden or cut flower plot.

Do you have other suggestions?  Weird, wonderful or simply practical… let us know in ‘comments’ below.

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