Protect Your Winter Landscape from Deer, Rabbits and Voles

By Melinda Myers - horticulturist and gardening expert
November 18, 2017

They’re beautiful creatures, that is, until they begin dining on your winter landscape. Don’t let your gardens succumb to hungry deer, rabbits and voles. Even if you’re lucky enough to be wildlife-free now, as food becomes scare this winter these beautiful creatures may move into your landscape to dine. Here are three tactics to help you in the battle against these hungry animals.

Rabbit in the garden

Fencing is the best, although not always practical, way to prevent wildlife damage. Install a 4- to 5-foot-high fence around small planting beds. Sink the bottom few inches into the soil to keep out hungry voles. A fence of this height will keep out rabbits and is usually enough to keep out deer that seem to avoid small confined spaces.  The larger the area, the more likely deer will enter. Some gardeners report success using fishing line to keep out deer. They surround their garden or landscape with strands of fishing line set at 12” and 36” above the ground.

Or surround young trees and shrubs with a cylinder of hardware cloth sunk several inches in the ground and at least four feet high. This will protect plants from voles, rabbits and deer.  Monitor throughout the winter to make sure the fencing is secure and fallen snow does not provide easy access for rabbits.

Scare tactics are less effective on wildlife in urban environments. They are used to human scents and sounds. Lights and sounds triggered by motion sensors tend to be more effective.

Repellents that make plants taste or smell bad to animals can also help.  You will find products containing things like garlic, hot pepper oil, and predator urine.  Many gardeners tell me they use Milorganite to repel deer, rabbits, and voles and have great success. Whatever you use, apply it before the animals start feeding for the best results. And reapply as directed on the label.

Deer in the woods

Constantly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used.  Wildlife often change their feeding locations and preferred food. And if the populations are high and the animals are hungry, they will eat just about anything. Be willing to change things up if one method is not working. Using multiple tactics will help increase your level of success.

So take a few steps now to protect your landscape from hungry wildlife.  Be vigilant and persistent and send them elsewhere to dine.