Deer destroyed your veggie patch again? This cheap supermarket buy will help to deter them

The cheap – and cruelty-free – deterrent for the animals that are a little too fond of your home-grown fruit and veg

A deer in garden
(Image credit: Robert Muckley/ Getty)

Wondering why to put soap in your garden? You may have seen this hack online, or perhaps in a neighbor's garden – a bar of what looks like very ordinary soap, suspended in a garden tree or shrub? What's the mystery? 

As it turns out, a very specific brand of inexpensive bar soap is a very effective animal deterrent. Whether you're wondering how to get rid of squirrels in the garden, or are besotted by hungry deer, rabbits, or chipmunks happily chomping on your tomatoes when you're not looking, there's an easy way to keep them away without harming them. 

irish spring soap

(Image credit: Alamy)

The magical animal deterrent isn't just any soap, however – it has to be the Irish Spring Deodorant Soap. We've asked garden pest experts on why this particular soap is so effective. According to Leslie Vincent, a gardening expert from Atkins, animals simply hate the smell of Irish Spring soap, and will leave your veggies alone if it's present in your backyard. 

To make the hack work, Leslie recommends you 'slice the bar up in ½ inch cubes and place 2 pieces into a drawstring pouch. Place some wooden sticks around the garden and tie the bags or pouches around the sticks.' 

'Keep an eye on how things go, obviously, for larger animals, you may need more soap – a deer is going to need a lot more than a mouse.' Also, if you're trying to figure out how to get rid of skunks in your yard, bear in mind that they're most likely after your trash, so start by keeping your bins pristine. 

how to get rid of squirrels in garden on fence

(Image credit: Joel Hartz/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Speaking of small vs. large animals, there's some indication that the Irish Soap deterrent works best on medium to large animals. Andrew Gaumond, Horticulturist, Botanist, & Director of Content at Petal Republic confirms that rabbits and deer are the animals you can deter successfully using this method. Mouse or rat problem? You'll want to try peppermint oil instead.

Insect pests should be tackled with a homemade insecticidal soap, Andrew says: 'It can be easily made by mixing 1 spoon of fragrance-free liquid soap (dish or hand-soap is fine) with 5 spoons of vegetable oil with around 16 fluid ounces of warm water in a spray bottle. Give the mixture a good shake and apply immediately and liberally on sweet peas and other growing matter in your garden.' 

Ultimately, if you live in an area where gardens are frequented by wildlife, you probably won't be able to prevent every animal that lives around from paying you a visit. It may even be that incorporating some wildlife garden ideas into your backyard will make the animals less interested in your veggie patch. But, if you are being seriously pestered, then a cheap bar of soap or two is well worth a try. 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.