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Andrew Linker: Deterring deer can be a full-time job for the gardener
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Andrew Linker. - photo by Scott Rogers

Besides the occasional human who wanders into the garden to help themselves to the strawberries or sunflowers, white-tailed deer are the tallest garden pest I have encountered. Their elusive grazing can easily prevent a savvy gardener from growing just about anything.

Whether it’s rose bushes, newly planted native trees, Pinterest plans for that little patch of sun in the yard, or the idea of growing veggies to get that homegrown tomato taste, deer is a topic that will ruffle the feathers of any Hall County Master Gardener.

And, if you do find your garden in the chosen route of Bambi’s aunt, and all seventeen cousins, you might think the easiest, least expensive and proven ways to deter these nonstop vegetarian grazers are just a quick google search away.

When YouTube, Amazon reviews, and Facebook groups make your head spin and you ask other gardeners around here, you will hear everything from blinking lasers and herds of cats to hanging Irish Spring soap and spraying coyote urine around the perimeter. 

Maybe this column should simply be a list of the wildest ways to keep deer from eating your garden.

Some swear by whatever they tried the last growing season, while some shrug and say they’ve never had a deer issue. Others throw up their hands and walk away grumbling under their breath. Eventually, the thought arises: How many tomatoes does it take to save up for a proper deer fence?

Most “common” deer solutions may work for a month, but if you are in just the right location, it may become a longer ordeal than one could imagine. If you are serious about growing food in the ground, a few strands of electrified wire sometimes works like a charm. 

The key word being “sometimes.” 

Other times you may find yourself, on a chilly February morning, rolling out 1,000 feet of 8-foot-high fixed-knot steel fencing just to keep the summer garden dream alive.

After many creative attempts at deterring deer for the past three years, I have decided to keep the elegant jumpers out for good. Sometimes growing a garden doesn't always add up on paper, but boy do those tomatoes taste great at the end of June. 

The first part of the tall fencing installation was a breeze. I found myself reaching up on my toes to touch the top of the 8 foot fence and smiling into the woods on the other side. 

“Maybe I’ll be able to spend more time gardening instead of designing, planning, and installing things,” I thought. 

The second half of the fencing project had my mouth running like a sailor and began a two-hour wrestling match between me and the massive roll of steel. The combination of the tightly coiled wire, the trees it had to go between, and the hillside carpeted with slippery leaves, left me physically exhausted. 

Turns out those “fixed knots” at each intersection of wire are also perfect for pinching skin and drawing blood under a thin t-shirt. I’d say the most common thought I’ve had since starting this little 3-acre vegetable farm in 2017 has been: I wish I could spend more time actually farming.

There is a coffee mug in the cupboard that’s adorned with a saying: “Gardening. Cheaper than therapy.” That mug hasn’t seen much use since I started having deer issues. 

I’ve tried “having a talk” with the deer, coercing them to lush rows of their favorite snack instead of main crops, and outsmarting them. I’ve even planted more to share with them. Even still, the deer seem to laugh at the “guard” dogs, fireworks shot at them, electrified peanut butter cups, and all types of fences and netting. 

It wasn’t until I began devising a week-long plan to sleep in a tree in the middle of winter with a slingshot that I realized maybe this whole deer thing had started affecting my psychological health. 

I was thinking of starting therapy just to continue gardening.

Andrew Linker is the owner at Humble Vine Farm and manages the only year 'round farmers market in Hall County. @NGLGmarket on social media or email andrew.nglg@gmail.com.

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