Apple tree plan - height of lowest branches above deer browse?

eciton(zone 7)March 26, 2013

ok we just planted 4 1 yr old bare root apple trees and have a fairly decent deer population. ideally since they are 80% full size (M111 and B118 rootstocks) i would like to get the lowest branches above the browse line (4-5 ft) vs fencing. Temp fencing is ok for a couple seasons but i dont want to do it for good.

question: should i prune off all the lateral branches under 4' or do the ones at 30'' get higher as the tree gets bigger? do branches move in height or are they where they will always be right now.

that being said, if they are where they will always be at 30'' (roughly for lowest) will they go up at a steep enough angle to keep the fruit and new growth out of browse in 2-3 years?


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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The branches attachment point at the trunk will always stay at the height they are now. If you go with 4-5ft of bare trunk you still need to protect that trunk from antler rubbing until it's big enough to take a beating.

Generally the branches will angle up some. That depends on cultivar, training, and crop load.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:15PM
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eciton(zone 7)

ok. so if i want the lowest branches to start at around 40'' then i need to prune off anything lower and only allow new growth above 40'' right?

if this is the case i would essentially be pruning the 1 yr old trees back to 5' tall whips though. is that normal/ok to do?


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:50AM
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All of my trees are trained to get above deer browse. You can do a few things, I have tried them all with varying results:

You can prune them off to a whip and only allow new branches to initiate at the height you want. I like this option least. I always feel like it slows down establishment, and makes for thin "leggy" trees during the initial years...but I have no real proof of this.

You can leave those lower branches for the time being and prune them off later (next season) once the tree establishes and stars to fill out....or just let the deer have them when you are ready to remove fencing. If they appear to become dominant growth either pinch tips or cut them back repeatedly through the season.

you can put up a wider temp ring of fencing and keep those branches lower branches, protecting them untill thier growing tips and secondary wood are above browse level.

options 2 and 3 are my preference and lately I lean toward 3. Depending on the trees growth habit and training it can be easier to keep the useful canopy at a more convenient height to harvest, prune, and spray.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:23AM
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Another easy to use strategy to keep deer away from your young trees is the use of a fear based repellent like Deer Repellent Packs. Used in conjunction with a fence or as a stand alone, we have seen significant reductions in damage caused by deer to orchard varieties. You can check them out at:

Here is a link that might be useful: Keep Deer Away from Trees

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 10:35AM
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Is four or five feet high enough? Deer are known to stand on their back legs to reach tasty branches. Do they ever pack down snow enough to walk above the ground level? I have expanded the fences around my six-year-old apple trees as they grow. It is a pain to do. If any sprigs stick through the wire, they are immediately chewed off by the local herd. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:45PM
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twigs/tips at 48" definetly get munched. I think they might reach up 5'...depends how motivated and hungry

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 2:40PM
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