We have a raised bed garden that does well for the most part. For aesthetic purposes, my wife will not let me put a fence around the garden. Most of the veggies and herbs do well and do not get eaten by the various critters. But sometimes they do, especially the peppers and cucumbers. I have seen deer eating the garden, but there could be others as well i suppose. We live along the edge of deep woods in the country (NE Ohio).

What are some good techniques to keep them away? I do not care too much about being earthy, so pesticides are an option if there are no other alternatives.

Things in there this year are: basil, oregano, chives, peppers (bell, jalapeno, banana), broccoli, eggplant, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

enter image description here


10 Answers 10


This web page lists techniques for making your garden "deer resistant":

  • Plants they don't like
  • Deer repellent
  • Deer fence [your wife won't like these, they have to be 8 feet tall to keep deer out]
  • Motion activated sprinklers, lights, noise makers
  • Pie pan noise makers [the aesthetics of this may be questionable to your wife too]
  • Dog

You mention other critters, but don't say what kind -- rabbits, woodchucks, voles? The control method will vary greatly:

  • For rabbits and woodchucks:
    • a low fence might work, but you'll have to bury part of it since they can dig
    • more smelly sprays
    • traps -- live or dead
  • For voles, good luck... maybe an outdoor cat or two?
  • Some of the motion activated noise/light devices may work well on other animals depending on what is invading your garden.
  • Raccoons can be deterred with a couple of low strands of electric fencing around the garden. I don't know if this will count against your fence ban -- it's a temporary fence that could be taken down after the growing season.

Fences are the most common advice I've seen (and what I use) and from what I can tell the most effective. If you can't do this, you may want to try some of the sprays/repellents. E.g. fox or cat urine.

Depending on the animal, some people use a live trap and then transport the animal far enough away to make it someone else's problem. Just make sure you can deal with a live trap in a timely manner -- leaving an animal die slowly baking in the sun all day is much worse than just using an "instant-kill" trap.

Again depending on the animal, you can cage the plants, e.g. small cubes of wire fencing around your spinach, lettuce, etc to keep small animals off.

  • 2
    @Mike, another thing you can do, now that I see the photo, is clear away some of the underbrush in the woods near your garden. You're making it easy right now -- the animals have lots of cover right up to the edge of the garden. If you clear things out a bit, then they have to venture across more open space. (I don't mean cut down large trees, just prune back/cut down some of the low growth.)
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 14:38
  • For voles, I've successfully used a long rectangular planter box turned upside down covering a regular spring mouse trap with a peanut butter and oatmeal mix. Place that somehwere the voles travel.
    – B540Glenn
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 14:41

I know this may not be the answer you're looking for but your best hope might be to try and persuade your wife. What I mean is, a rustic fence can be an attractive addition to a kitchen garden and aesthetically quite beautiful.

Certainly I can see that you both might not want a perimeter fence around the entire property but a low fence around the vegetable portion only, would work.

When we were in the Tirol in Austria last year we went to an outdoor museum showing the traditional barn-style housing people used to live in over there. The kitchen garden plots had small picket fences round them (presumably to keep the family pigs and hens from entering). They were attractive and my wife was very pro (normally she wouldn't have wanted a fence in the garden).

I took a photo at the time, because we thought we might copy the look: enter image description here

  • cool, attractive but practical fences would certainly be an option Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:36
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    @Mike - Note that to reliably keep deer out you need an 8' fence, see my answer.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:54
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    That fence wouldn't even keep a garden gnome out! Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 5:41

This actually seems to keep the bunnies away. Have someone in the family get a haircut and keep all the hair in a bag. Than spread that hair across your garden. This tends to keep the bunnies away.

  • 1
    According to Hollywood (The Rookie), it works for dear too. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 22:21

Try the plant rue as a border plant. It is a deterrent against deer and rabbits. From what I know, you'd need a lot of it growing around, so I'd say a solid line or two around your garden would be best. It doesn't grow very tall or wide though so it doesn't take up that much space.


I constructed a couple of cages out of chickenwire and 2x2s that's about 18 inches tall, with a chickenwire roof, as well (construction is described in "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew). I keep my spring salad mix covered with one, and also use one to cover my tomatoes and peppers until they're large enough to handle some minor mammal munching. Once everything is big enough to handle some grazing, I remove the cages.

I suppose that they're "unsightly" for the month or two that they're out on the garden, but they keep anything larger than a mouse out of my garden quite effectively.


Some more recommendations that I did not see above:

Use hot sauce to keep critters from eating plants. Cover the plants with a solution of 1 tbsp. liquid detergent and half a bottle of hot sauce, mixed into a watering can filled with water. The detergent helps the hot sauce to adhere to the plants. Hot sauce repels deer, rabbits and most other critters.
Use elderberry cuttings, garlic powder and chili powder to repel moles and other burrowing critters. Place these in any tunnels that you find and repeat weekly.
Hang deodorant soap from trees. Deer dislike the scent and will stay away. Be sure to hang it, though, as groundhogs enjoy a bar of soap.
Use essential oils. Many of these, such as sage and thyme, are known to have repellent effects. Sprinkling these in an area will safely repel some types of animals.
Play on an animal's natural instincts. Critters are generally prey to other animals and will stay away from an area that is scattered with the scent of their enemies. Dung, hair, blood and other scents spread in a particular area will naturally repel critters.
  • I had some critter chew on an outdoor rope hammock. Eventually, someone suggested sprinkling white cayenne powder, which worked wonders. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 22:25
  • What happens when you want to take a nap and get the stuff on your hands, eyes or nose? I have to be so careful just adding a pinch to my cooking. I have to wash and clean the stuff out from my nails and I still end up getting in my eyes, or nose!
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 19:08

My garden is positioned between a makeshift greyhound track and a semi busy county road. I've never had a problem with anything eating my plants. My garden is also underneath a streetlight, which might help as well.

Eggplant, peppers, chives, oregano and tomatoes probably aren't going to be eaten by rabbits, I don't know about deer. Broccoli and Cucumbers might.

There are traditional methods like planting a border of marigolds or hanging shiny pie plates, but I'd say the best way to scare animals away is to place your garden in a more public place, hopefully your wife doesn't mind!

  • 1
    no where around here that is more public or lighted. added photo to show. What do marigolds do and repell? Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:40
  • @Mike, supposed to repel rabbits. Also I've heard that if you hang dryer sheets out you can get similar results. (both tidbits come straight from old wives). Looks like you've got a big yard. I don't blame you for not wanting to add a gaudy streetlight. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:45
  • +1 for suggesting Marigolds as a companion plant in vegetable garden; apparently it was extremely popular in Victorian vegetable gardens...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 4:34

Personally, I like the ideas that enclose, protect the veggie areas...

Below is some information that I hope proves somewhat helpful/useful:


A mesh fence can be hidden behind bushes and hedging (effectively what a lot of our garden is).

For larger animals, spikey stuff can do wonders - that would keep deer, cattle, and hominids out but not rabbits.

I agree with Peter about peppers and tomatoes - the things that eat ours are usually insects (typically horn worms but we've had aphids this year), and birds.


These answers are great.

Another idea a family member has was to sprinkle lime in the garden to keep animals away. Don't know if this is harmful, but just another suggestion I wanted to post. I suspect it would eventually wash away with rain, but probably no different from the sprays mentioned above.


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