How do you keep deer and groundhogs out of your garden? I live in Gahanna...

Asked May 8, 2018, 8:17 PM EDT

How do you keep deer and groundhogs out of your garden? I live in Gahanna across from Big Walnut Creek so I have a lot of wild critters munching on my vegetable garden.

Franklin County Ohio

1 Response

I must admit, all of us who have backyard vegetable gardens continuously ask this question and search for the silver bullet. In addition to taking part in the Ask An Expert Program, I work in the annuals department at a local garden center each spring and this is, without a doubt, the most asked question each and every year. Rabbits, deer, groundhogs, squirrels, and raccoons drive gardeners crazy.
First and foremost, there are numerous ways to deter animal pests; there are sprays, reflectors, repellents, noise makers, and hose attached sprayers. Each and every one of these will work under certain conditions and with certain pests, but all, in the end, provide temporary relief, at best. The pests will learn and adapt.
Here are those that I have found work more on a permanent basis: (1) If you have a single known pest like a groundhog, contacting a local pest control service and trapping the pest works. (2) Some people with fenced yards let their dogs roam the property at night and this can work. (3) Having said all this, the only way I have found to deter animal pests successfully are physical barriers - fences and sometimes even cages.
I have raised vegetable beds and they are a small deterrent in themselves, especially to rabbits. They don't like to hop up into an unknown area; but, again, I found this to be temporary at best so I surround each bed with 3-4 ft fence tucked tightly to the raised bed itself. In a regular garden bed, make it a point to bury the fence well below ground level to keep the pest from burrowing under the fence and into the garden. I have read articles that recommend the fence be set at least a foot below ground, but the aggressiveness of the pest will tell you if you have to go to that extreme. Lastly, let's talk deer. If you have small, individual beds like I do with the raised beds (10'-12' X 4') the 3' - 4' fence works fine. However; if you have a large bed (25' X 25' or larger) and surround it with a fence, most recommend an 8' fence because deer will jump a smaller fence to get into a large area.
One last thing I have found that works really well in smaller plantings to deter rabbits are metal cloches (usually made from chicken wire). I place these over my green plants like broccoli, cabbage, etc, when they are small and the rabbits can't get at them. Once they begin to mature, I remove the cloches and the rabbits usually don't go after them because they want those tender, soft, young leaves not the tougher, older leaves.
I hope this gives you some things to try to keep your vegetable garden from being devoured by animal pests. I went for years without putting up a fence around each of my raised beds, but I had to finally surrender and fence them in. I did mine with 4' chicken wire so I can easily pull back one side when I work the garden and then pull it back closed when I'm done.
Good luck with deterring you animal pests and hopefully you will have a great gardening season. Mother's Day is this Sunday and it's time to get that garden fully up and running!