PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
August 22, 2017

While deer are generally pleasant wildlife to observe, in large numbers they can do an astonishing amount of damage to trees and gardens on your farm. A single deer wandering across your property might not be much of an issue. Even two might not cause much trouble. But 30 or 40? You might as well give up trying to grow anything without a garden fence to protect it, because when you have this many deer visiting your farm, they can be very destructive. I know from experience, because earlier this spring, that’s the number of deer that were frequenting my farm.

With 30 or so deer lurking around, it was clear that planting the annual vegetable garden would not be an option without first putting up a deer-proof garden fence. Given that the project was short-notice, the fence needed to be simple and easy to build, yet effective in keeping the deer at bay. If you deal with deer issues like I do, here’s the design I built—perhaps it will work for you, too.

Supplies

The number of fence posts and T-posts depends on the size of the area you’re fencing.

  • Wooden fence posts, 10 feet long
  • Metal T-posts, 8 feet long
  • Mesh wire fencing, 6 feet tall
  • Hardware cloth, 3 feet tall
  • Zip ties
  • Fencing staples
  • A gate (if it’s tall enough to keep deer out, anything should work)

Step 1: Set The Posts

Once you’ve plotted the area that the fence will surround and gathered all necessary supplies, use a post hole digger or an auger to dig holes at each corner for your wooden posts, which will anchor the entire garden fence. At least four wooden posts will be needed (one for each corner of a square fence); you might want more if installing a non-square or very large fence, and extra wooden posts can be useful to anchor the fence gate. They should be set at least two feet into the ground, leaving about eight feet of post above the ground.

In addition, the corner posts need to be set securely so that the weight of the garden fence won’t pull them out of alignment—setting the posts in concrete or bracing them with additional posts set diagonally might be necessary.

After the wooden posts are in place, fill in the gaps with an evenly spaced number of metal T-posts; one post every eight or nine feet should do the job. Drive them about one foot into the ground, leaving seven feet above the ground.

Step 2: Attach The Mesh Wire

Once the posts are in, you can install the mesh wire. Be sure to place it on the outside of the posts, facing away from the interior of the garden fence, so that any curious animals pushing against the mesh won’t be able to push it off of the posts.

Position the mesh wire level with the top of the wooden posts, leaving a two-foot gap between the bottom of the mesh wire and the ground. Attach the mesh wire to the wooden posts using fencing staples; zip ties can be used to attach it to the metal T-posts.

Step 3: Attach The Hardware Cloth

Installing the hardware cloth is slightly more complicated. To help protect against animals such as rabbits and squirrels, you can dig a shallow, wide trench all the way around the outside of your garden fence. In this trench, you can bury approximately one foot of the hardware cloth, folding it away from the interior of the fence so that burrowing animals will be stopped by the hardware cloth if they try to dig under the fence. The two feet of hardware cloth still above the ground can then be attached to the posts using fencing staples and zip ties.

Step 4: Install The Gate

By “gate,” I don’t necessarily mean an imposing, ornate, wrought-iron centerpiece—though if you have one on hand, go for it! As long as it’s large enough and solid enough to keep animals out, any sort of gate should work fine.

In my case, I used an ordinary household storm door, setting it between two wooden posts and attaching it with hinges. At the base of the door, a wooden beam stretching between the two posts helps seal the entrance against squirrels, while a simple eyehook latch keeps the door shut.

Since building this new garden fence, deer issues have been reduced to zero, and squirrel troubles have been significantly reduced as well. No more curious critters wander into the garden, munch on plants and leave muddy footprints up and down the rows of vegetables. It’s a simple fence, but it’s definitely effective!



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