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Deer Management for Home Gardeners Using a Two-Tiered Fence System

Deer damage is a problem each year for homeowners growing fruits and vegetables.

Deer tracks on strawberry plastic. Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

Deer tracks on strawberry plastic.
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

A strawberry plant damaged by deer in early February.

A strawberry plant damaged by deer in early February.
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

A healthy, protected strawberry plant in early February. Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

A healthy, protected strawberry plant in early February.
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

Crops commonly targeted by deer can include but are not limited to: beans, peas, squash, greens, tomato, melons, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, flowers, cover crops, and wildlife plots. While many homeowners struggle to find solutions to keep deer out of their garden, deer can be managed with fencing. Perhaps the best and most cost-effective method is the two-tiered fence system.

Two-tiered Fencing

The two-tiered fence system uses both electric current and two polytape fences to keep deer out. Polytape is a ribbon-like, woven, lightweight material that carries an electrical current and is used in many livestock fences. It is used due to its lightweight nature, ease of installation, and ability to flicker in the wind which will help with deterrence. The electrical shock provided by the polytape deters deer that get too close and the two-tiered fence creates a depth perception issue with deer that may want to jump over. Deer do not feel comfortable jumping the fence because they cannot judge the distance to get over it. If deer pressure has occurred in a garden area before, it is advised that the fence be set up before the crop is planted. The quicker the fence is installed, the less likely damage will occur.

Set Up

The outer fence should be a single strand of woven polytape that is anywhere from 18 inches to 24 inches off the ground. The inner fence should be offset 4-5 feet from the outer fence which creates a two-layered fence. The second fence should have 2 strands of polytape; one should be 5-10 feet off the ground and a second strand can be from 2 feet to 4 feet. The two fences should be connected with polytape intermittently, both on the top and bottom strands of the inside fence, to maintain an even current throughout the fencing. Fiberglass poles that will support the polytape should be spaced around 15 feet apart. A solar cell provides in-field energy to an energizer that electrically charges the polytape. Alligator clips usually come with the energizer and are attached to the polytape and to a grounding rod placed near the set up. Using more than one grounding rod will increase the shock delivered by the fence.

Weeds must be maintained around the fence to avoid a short in the fence, which would leave the fence with no electricity.

Diagram of a typical two-tiered fence system. Walker Massey, Clemson University

Diagram of a typical two-tiered fence system.
Walker Massey, Clemson University

The two-tiered fence system (note the inside fence only has one layer of polytape instead of two). Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

The two-tiered fence system (note the inside fence only has one layer of polytape instead of two).
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

Cost Per Acre

The following materials are needed to fence in 1 acre (assuming field is 100 feet X 440 feet). All prices are based on pricing from online retailers in 2019, though local suppliers often have materials needed to install the fencing. Some costs can be reduced by using materials found around the house or garden (such as wooden poles, bamboo, or PVC) or by spreading out the spacing of poles. T-posts provide a more permanent solution but can be more expensive. The two-tiered fences are temporary setups but can be used for many years on multiple crops per year. The price analysis for the fencing should be spread out over a minimum of 5 years.

Materials Amount Cost per unit Cost for 1 acre
½ inch Polytape 1320 feet per roll (3) $68 $204
6 ft Corner Fiberglass Poles 8 $5.05 $40.40
6 ft In-row Fiberglass Poles 136 $3.05 $414.80
Insulators for Polytape 216 (1 insulator per pole on outside fence and 2 on inside fence) $0.29 $62.64
Grounding Rod 1 $12 $12
Solar charger energizer kit 1 $220 $220
Digital Voltmeter 1 $35 $35
Totals $988.84

Fencing set up with an energizer and battery instead of a solar panel. Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

Fencing set up with an energizer and battery instead of a solar panel.
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

An alternative set up using PVC and multiple layers of polytape. Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

An alternative set up using PVC and multiple layers of polytape.
Zachary B. Snipes, ©2019 Clemson Extension

Reference:

Penn State Extension. 2017, October 18. Orchard Wildlife – Integrated Management of White-Tailed Deer. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/orchard-wildlife-integrated-management-of-white-tailed-deer

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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