Evergreen seedlings - size required to fend off deer?

JillyWillyCT(6)March 2, 2014

We live on a wooded lot, and "dear neighbor" on our north side cut down a ton of trees last year, exposing her "car dealership" style lighting on her house and driveway. A major project for this coming year will be to plant evergreens to shield her out....eventually. We realize it won't happen overnight. Also, we want to make it look like a natural evergreen barrier, not a row of arborvitae toy soldiers. We will need to mix varieties and stagger the plantings in a random pattern.

Our challenges:
1. The area where we need to plant these trees is along an established deer path (too large to fence in, so fencing is not an option)
2. Water source will need to be super long hoses from the house to aid in getting trees established, about 100 feet.
3. I'd say it's a partial sun area, especially when the deciduous trees come out with their leaves.
3. We have a prized ornamental crabapple in the front, so I think cedars are out of the question due to cedar apple rust.
4. The larger, established evergreens are not only expensive (especially for the number that we'd need) but also, it would be extremely difficult to transport the large root balls up the hill, as well as hand dig the holes.

It looks like the Arbor Day Foundation sells several varieties that I would consider planting, and the prices can't be beat, given the quantity we will need to plant. However, the size of the seedlings are only 6"-12"....babies!

Question: Is it even worth trying to plant these, or am I simply planting bite-sized hors d'oeuvres for the deer? I am willing to risk losing about 25% of what we plant if the other seedlings are likely to make it.

Alternatively, Is there anything we could do to protect the mini seedlings from the deer, or, do we not need to worry if the variety is considered deer resistant (I know....nothing truly is!), for example, Norway Spruce.

We would appreciate any insight from anyone who has tried little baby seedlings. Thank you!

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I have found that Norway Spruce is deer resistant in my yard. Also Hemlock (but then you may have the wooly adalgid). Cephalotaxus is also deer resistant. Pieris, Nandina mixed in to fill. and SPRAY. definitely a problem. Good luck

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:21AM
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Yes, N. spruce is "usually" not browsed on by deer, and is a very fine and imposing conifer. I think you should look for sources other than Arbor Day Foundation. For whatever reason, that just has not been a very good source for most folks. Meanwhile, and especially if small size is not unacceptible, there are numerous other options. One that I like very much is itascagreenhouse.com. Most of their stock is in "styroblocks", strofoam trays such that you are actually planting a plug, not a bare-root seedling.

Here's what I see as your issues: 1) Deer..........one way or another, you're going to have to deal with them. Even if you find some species to work with that don't seem to be browsed, eventually a buck is going to come along and just demolish a tree or three, and most likely, your favorite ones, rubbing the fuzz off of its antlers! Believe me, this will happen. Some kind of fencing or diligent use of the spray-on antifeedant products are going to be necessary. 2) Light requirements. Most conifers do their best in full sun or at least light shade. There are exceptions: Hemlock (Wooly adelgid problem out by you guys), balsam fir (Very shade-tolerant but rare in commerce-Itasca's got em), Thuja occidentalis-the species tree, not the various cultivars, although one cultivar-"Hetz Wintergreen" is quite species-like. But these too will do better with more sun. Yews are fairly shade-tolerant but well, they're yews! Other than such rarities as Taxus canadensis, I don't get too excited about yews! 3) Watering. I don't get too bent out of shape if I'm working with tiny transplants such as seedlings. We planted 6000 last spring up at our N. Wisconsin tree farm, never watered them, and with timely rainfall, nearly all survived. 4) Small size of transplants. That one is up to you. Working with seedlings has a number of advantages-easy to plant, less watering concern, low cost, wide availability, etc. You just have to be patient. Now here's what I've observed, once again at my tree farm: The oldest stuff we planted went into the ground up there-fairly decent soil though quite a bit of sand and very stony-4 growing seasons back. Now these are fast-growing species, but I've got hybrid larch (Wouldn't work in your shade_ that are in excess of 12 ft. tall. Norway spruce are right behind them. We had a lot of rain up there last year and I kid you not, some of my Norway spruce grew 4 feet! So don't rule out starting small. The growth rate may surprise you.
Another possibility that would be somewhat shade-tolerant is white pine. I've got a bunch of those too and they're doing well.

Finally, check with yoour county conservation service, they are typically a wealth of info and a source of a variety of small transplanting stock. Or just do a search on seedlings and get ready to be buried by hits! Hopefully I've given you something that helps. Get back if you have more questions. I've done a ton of this stuff!


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:33AM
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thank you for your incredibly insightful info...just what I needed to know!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:11PM
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