Oh, deer, here they come again

#521 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 2006, Hills Newspapers

There is a way to keep deer out of your garden and the fix is not expensive, unsightly or difficult to install.

Phase 2 of deer in my garden happened just a few weeks ago. I think it was only one deer who, during the night, ate my roses and violets, oddly leaving dozens of other blooms alone. Still, I do not want deer again in my garden.

It’s been a dozen years since Phase 1 of keep-out-the-deer, a great success. Not a single deer in all that time.

Changes to one of my side fences must have been the draw for this recent marauder. I could see that he’d leapt over a picket fence that just this summer I’ve cleared of heavy ivy and propped up straight. For a long time it had been bent low by the ivy tangle and probably looked to the deer too wide for ready crossing. But now it was a straight shot from my neighbor’s yard to mine

The only other time deer breached my borders, my then-husband and I had just bought this house. The garden area was fully covered with misshapen and overgrown trees, the land was fairly steep land difficult to get around on; very forest-like, perfect for deer.

Along the back of my lot, at the top of the slope, was a newer six-foot tall fence constructed solidly plank-to-plank. Jumping over that fence was a cinch for the deer; there was plenty of space on our back neighbor’s lot for them to get a running start.

What to do? We’d heard that building a second fence parallel to the first would work as long as the fences were close enough together. Deer won’t jump if there is not sufficient taking-off and landing space. We considered building another fence or extending the existing one upward with a trellis but either would be expensive.

My husband thought for awhile, then came up with what proved to be a very good idea.

He put hoops on the fence. Does that sound odd? Remember croquet, the lawn game where you hit wooden balls through hoops? Well, the hoops that my husband formed are like the wickets in croquet – oversized ones.

They are inexpensive, quite beautiful and yet at the same time largely invisible, and the biggest benefit – if they’re high enough, deer don’t jump them.

The hoops are made of copper plumbing pipe, half inch in diameter. They extend above the fence and overlap in a criss-cross at the sides. My husband placed the tops of the arches about 2 feet above the fence line and spanned them a width of about 8 feet.

He built a half round jig of wood on which he bent the copper pipe into their rounded shapes. Because that back fence is straight across the top and is made up of evenly spaced sections with posts between, he figured out what size he wanted and made 5 hoops, all the same size and shape.

From the first day that the hoops were in place, precisely what we had hoped was true: no deer. I found the hoops beautiful; half circles repeating rhythmically, and copper so pretty in any case, that I hated to plant anything that would cover them. But all these years later, little of them can be seen among the clematis vines and flowering maple, and the old plum and oak trees.

When I saw deer footprints near the roses in my garden just recently, I knew the solution: More hoops. I called my friend Shaun who knows how to do almost everything and I gave him measurements and made a date. He showed up early one morning with half a dozen pieces of copper pipe in his truck, each one 20 feet in length.

Shaun didn’t think we’d need to build a form. Copper is soft and he was sure he could bend the pipe by hand. All I had to do was tell him how I wanted the hoops to look.

The side fence is not level across the top because it steps down the hill in sections. And the sections are not the same width. So we couldn’t simply make the pipes the same half circle and attach them at regular intervals.

Here’s what we did instead. Shaun picked up the first long piece of pipe, then using only his hands and some strength, he bent it toward a half circle shape. He held it up, laying it flat against the highest fence section while Anet and I stood away and coached.

“A little more to your left.” “A little higher.” “It’s not rounded enough at the top toward the right side.”

We said things like that. When the hoop looked right to us, Shaun put a screw into each leg; then he moved on to the next hoop.

Judging purely by eye, and with minor adjustments up and down and side to side, half a dozen hoops were attached to the fence. The highest point is about 8 feet off the ground. The lower ends of the hoops criss-cross prettily near where they are attached to the fence posts.

All in all, the job took us about 3 hours. The pipe costs $33 each and is fairly easy to bend without any tools. The bright copper ages quickly to a darker bronze.

The new hoops have been up for several weeks now. There have been no signs of deer. But birds like the hoops. We often see them sitting on them on their way to somewhere.

This entry was posted in Home Life & Home Maintenance. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

  • Sign up to receive our newspaper columns: