Deer damage

garden-of-simpleJune 6, 2014

Deer have decimated my tiny apple trees and half my raspberries.

The apple trees have been hit every year and are still trying to hang in, I might replace them with spendier, larger trees next year (these are 4 years old and still 3 feet tall)

My raspberries are a year old and all the leaves we're eaten off new canes. Any chance of recovery this summer? I had just come home with mulch and fencing to trellis them, when I saw the damage, which had happened in the last day (along with a good portion of my veggies :/ )

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valgor(4b, WI)

Deer love apple trees, especially early in the year before all the other goodies come out for them to eat. I fence all of mine, even the eight footers. I have about 130 trees, fencing costs about as much as the trees themselves, but it will be worth it to me. Also, deer taste yummy too ;)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 8:53AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

You need to decide if you are growing deer food or apples. If apples fence the trees. You won't get apples without it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Permanent deer fencing is not in our budget, though I'm investigating more inexpensive options.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

A little protection can cost nothing, ..push in several, at least 4 or 5 stakes around the tree, slanted outward a little on top,...can be anything and for free, pruned branches, scrap wooden pieces, old broom handles etc. it really works,.. until tree is out of the woods.

Same with your strawberries,..push in lots of sticks, [about 2 foot off the ground] and tie twine. What I do is, lay bird netting over the cut tree sticks which have a end where two branches came off, looks like this Y,..netting you can hook on top of the V and won't slip down.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 3:32PM
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Garden, there is a solution that is not so pricey. What are your efforts worth? See our previous discussion, and photo of my 3-D fence. It works:\


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:24PM
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Fencing is not the solution. I've watched the deer in my mom's yard and they can stand flatfooted and with a flick of their ankles jump a fence.

You can take heart in that my mom has 9 apple trees and 2 cherry trees and they aren't the least bit interested. Her roses and tulips and hibiscus and some other things that is a different story.

What's eating your small apple leaves are curious fawn trying out a new food at eye level. When they get a stomach ache they won't bother with them again, except the apples you leave on the ground, which even my mom's dog will eat.

Fawn plucked my 4' cherry and plum trees of leaves I planted this year and until those trees get tell enough I expect the same will happen every year with the new fawn if the wander by those trees. The trees have about recovered there leaves though.

Deer 'topping' raspberries and such can be helpful for a bigger crop in fall so don't complain too much. You'll like to do be robbed of raspberries by birds before deer get them though. They strip my mom's cherry trees of each cherry just as it's ripe and not before. It's a challenge getting ripe cherries from those birds.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:41PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"You can take heart in that my mom has 9 apple trees and 2 cherry trees and they aren't the least bit interested. Her roses and tulips and hibiscus and some other things that is a different story.

What's eating your small apple leaves are curious fawn trying out a new food at eye level. When they get a stomach ache they won't bother with them again, except the apples you leave on the ground, which even my mom's dog will eat."


Welcome to the forum. Always nice to see new members.

Adult deer will indeed eat apple and cherry foliage, sometimes to the point of severely weakening the tree. They continue to come back for more, which would be an indication the foliage causes no problem to their intestinal tract. In my opinion deer are basically goats with antlers (goats will eat anything). Deer will also rut trees in the fall, stripping them of all the new growth they didn't eat off in the growing season.

Fences do work, they are just very expensive.

Please understand that just because some pests behave a certain way, or various cultural methods work in your locale, circumstances can be quite different in other locales.

I hope it's not too forward to suggest you to read some of the old posts before you offering advice to new growers. There is a wealth of advice in the archives of this forum w/ growers of many years of experience.

I mention this because in a couple other threads you mentioned buying from big box stores is preferable to buying from a reputable nursery on the internet, and that Bt use would "poison" a garden, both of which are questionable recommendations IMO and have been discussed at length on this forum.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 9:57AM
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One option is grow tubes. they are very thin blue plastic tubes that pass the right kind of light and the tree grow inside it. So when the tree comes out the top you get it to branch out at that height. You will be stuck picking from a ladder, but that is the only thing I know of if you can't afford the right fencing.

You leave the grow tube on for years, and it needs supported for years as well.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:04AM
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An adult deer occasionally browsing trees serves as a good indication of tree health and they won't browse a tree to death unless they are starving. In fact I don't the deer won't browse my trees again until next spring when the expect the new tender growth they like.

Regenerating new growth without killing the plants is why fast growing and abundant grasses are preferred by animals like deer most of the year and trees are mostly related to new leaf growth in the early spring.

I have never witnessed a deer browsing a tree to death or even a flower but of course I have seen documentary programs and know starving animals will in winter.

If they are starving you need to get the county / state wild animal control out there to remedy a bad situation.

Deer are not stupid.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 5:54PM
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valgor(4b, WI)

Deer stripped two of my freshly planted trees the night after I planted them, thinking surely I could put the fencing on tomorrow. I was lazy, the trees never recovered, and they died as a result. It was the middle of may with plenty of other goodies for them to eat. Deer will kill trees, I kill deer, I eat deer, the ultimate solution.

County wildlife officials would laugh.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 6:38PM
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I am surrounded by apple orchards, none of which have fencing. They do fence individual small trees, but that's it. Wonder why my house is so much more appealing than 300 acres of woods and several healthy orchards?

Came out yesterday morning around 6:30 to a deer in the yard :/

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 8:06PM
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For what itâÂÂs worth, here are a few of my experiences:
I have a 90' x 50' area surrounded by a 7' high deer fence. (The typical black plastic mesh deer fence sold all over the internet) I know the deer could jump it, but I've had it for a few years now and they have never got in. (They are near it all the time). Cages around trees also work for me.
Deer repellant sprays do seem to keep them from eating the leaves that have been sprayed, but don't seem to keep them out of the general area. They have to be reapplied often.
I'm sure deer behave differently in different areas, but I would not want to tell someone not to worry about them due to seemingly benign localized activity. I certainly have had several trees totally destroyed by them in both the spring and the fall. I've also lost many garden crops.
One more note: I had to put chicken wire around the bottom of the deer fence due to rabbits chewing through.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 9:59PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I am surrounded by apple orchards, none of which have fencing."

I believe the majority of apple orchards don't have fencing. In large acre plantings deer (or wildlife in general) destroy a smaller percentage of the overall crop or planting, which is dictated by the sheer number of trees/fruit per local number of wildlife.

Of the local orchards here, none fence. Nevertheless they do suffer damage. Year before last two orchards in my area planted several blocks of the new Canadian bush cherries. Deer killed a significant percentage of the plantings.

We have a large deer population at the farm, but have been very vigilant to keep new growth sprayed with Bobbex. Any new growth which is not sprayed will be eaten off. We spray apples, plums and cherries. Peaches they seem to leave alone. They browse the field to the south (when it's planted in beans) then come through my orchard and browse trees (if I don't keep the Bobbex on).

We were a bit late with the last spray and suffered some damage (mainly on plums) w/in the last two weeks.

I hope to get a deer fence up this summer.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:00PM
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Olpea - How often do you spray Bobbex? For my unprotected trees, I have been spraying deer repellant in lighter and lighter amounts, hoping a little on the leaves is enough. I really have no idea how much is enough. I used to use so much that the turkey vultures would circle for a few days. I kinda felt bad for fooling them. I don't spray it on my raspberries but did notice the new canes eaten back a bit, but not too much. Last yearâÂÂs canes with the fruit were left alone. Also, it seems like a good year for black raspberries.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:15PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I too have used lighter amounts of the repellent I'm using (Bobbex). At first I used the recommended amount, but then figured out a lesser concentration will keep the deer off so long as a spray it when any significant new growth occurs. In the spring we try to spray every couple weeks.

Bobbex can only be used on non-bearing trees. Evidently it imparts an unfavorable flavor to fruit. Currently we are using 1/2 of the recommended concentration. The stuff is expensive.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:41PM
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A relatively cheap solution, for young trees at least, is 6"x6" concrete reinforcing wire mesh. It comes in rolls 5' and 6' wide. It is stiff enough that no posts are required. But you will need to pin it to the ground or the deer will push it so that they can reach the tree inside.

I cut off enough to circle the tree 4' out from the longest branches. Make a circle of it around the tree, and put in a few stakes to keep it in place from deer and wind. It isn't galvanized, so it will rust, which helps it blend in IMO. As your trees grow, you can add to it to keep the circle far enough away from the tree that deer aren't interested.

It is probably too crude visually for a manicured setting, but if you aren't in such a situation, and don't mind some cheap and effective deer protection (even if it isn't the prettiest), it can't be beat. I have been using it for maybe 10 years or so. It does a very good job of keeping the deer off the trees. They will reach in for a close branch or if one grows outside the wire, but I no longer have trees stripped bare.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 12:02AM
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My solution for now is a very active dog. She is incredibly fast, and loves to chase deer. I've watched her chase deer for 100 yards and not fall behind even one step. She is that fast, and the deer know it. But, being such an active dog, she is a bit of a pest herself too. Sometime Saturday night she used my new China Pearl peach as a chew toy and killed it. And she digs around where I've planted melons and flowers. Pick your poison I guess. At least she leaves the tomato plants alone whereas before she was kept outside overnight, the deer would eat the young tomato plants right down to the ground. I used to see deer in the yard a couple times a week. I've only seen one this spring - a 1 year old that was lost and confused, and promptly learned about the dog.

What I have been considering installing is motion activated sprinklers. Not a super low-cost solution, but likely lower than fencing if trying to protect one or two trees. And fencing in my front yard is not really an option given the layout and neighbor concerns over property values. If your property is such that the deer come in from one or two access points you can head them off at, or you only need to protect a small area (the apple tree), a motion activated sprinkler might be the answer. There are a couple battery operated options out there. Some with a water reservoir, others you hook a hose to.

I am contemplating building my own with 24V and underground irrigation piping. Something to keep the dog and deer out of the garden permanently, but that I can flip a switch and enter without triggering it.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 12:21PM
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At least building a fence to keep the dog out is a lot easier than one to keep the deer out.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 5:13PM
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I've tried motion activated sprinklers, and they work as long as it is above freezing and you leave them on. Problem iwth them is the deer are a problem here long after the nightime temps fall below freezing. So they are at best a temporary solution. (And I personally don't like being woken up in the middle of the night by those sprinklers, even if it means they scared a deer off.)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 5:29PM
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Anyone try an electric fence? Seems like it would
be a little cheaper than a 7 or 8 ft tall fence?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 10:46PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Charina, I use those motion activated sprinklers. It takes some work to get them set up and maintained (don't forget to check the batteries every few weeks!) but they are generally working for me. I also have a dog who can smell the deer when they are in the yard, he makes this certain excited whining noise so I let him out and he chases them faaar away.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:13AM
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mjmarco(Zone 6 Upstate NY)

A one dollar of Irish Spring soap and you my friend will have no more problems. Hang it in the tree as it rains the rain drips it, as the day is windy the wind spreads the scent. I've had fences and watched the deer get on their hind legs and nibble. They will keep their for me with 15 trees all survived and I don't have just one deer I see herds of them 4-5 at a time walking through my yard...good luck.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:57AM
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How many tiny trees are you talking about?
We had deer damage that nearly killed our trees the year we put them in, but we caged the trees for the next year or two, and they did recover. Once the trees were tall enough to grow out of the cages, we removed them, and just figure the deer are doing some of the low pruning for us.
What I used was a semi-rigid plastic "deer fencing" from Tractor Supply, but it wasn't quite tall enough to keep the deer from reaching over the top, so I used two 5' pieces, and threaded tall stakes through the holes at the seams. 5 feet was high enough, because there's no where for a deer to fit inside, so they don't jump it.

Sadly, I didn't put one around our littlest apple tree because it used to be inside the garden fence. Then I rearranged the garden. None of our bigger trees had even been "pruned" this spring, so I let my guard down, and last night the little tree was munched by half. As well as serious nibbling on the currants and plumcot and peas.
Isn't this a little late for this to start?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 12:56PM
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I started with a couple of apple trees before I moved to berries and the deer literally snapped two of the smaller trees in half. I eventually justed pulled up the remaining apple trees this winter and focused on berries. My berry patch is ringed with a 4-wire electric fence and it has essentially eliminated deer damage to the berry plants although I don't think deer particularly like blackberry and raspberry plants. The top fence wire has to be around 7ft or the deer will jump over and the bottom wire has to be no more than 18 inches off the ground or the baby deer will sneak under.

Sometimes they browse a plant by sampling a couple of leaves. I tested this by planting 8 extra blackberry plants this Spring outside the electric fence right next to the path where the deer stand around. One plant out of 8 has some of the leaves chewed off but otherwise the plants were untouched. When there is other food around, I don't think deer will do much to the berry plants but during the winter months, I have had the deer eat on my evergreen landscaping because they were starving.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 1:50PM
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I've learned that the deer at our place are not consistant. They may leave something alone for months or a whole year only to eat every last leaf after I think things are safe.

So far there is nothing I've planted, besides rhubarb and perennial herbs, that they don't seem willing and able to destroy. And this is in the forest with very mild climate in which there are always things for them to eat.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:37PM
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