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Deer Damage - does it get better?

Posted by John Rieffel 
Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 08, 2013 05:01PM
We're in a largely suburban neighborhood in upstate new york and have 60 dwarf trees, the oldest of which are 6 years old. This early spring is the worst yet for bud damage by deer -- more than half of my trees have had 1/4 or more of their buds nibbled off. Previous years (we've been managing the orchard for 4 years) had less noticeable damage (or i didn't know what to look for).

- Does it get better? As the trees mature, will damage from bud browsing have less of an overall effect on crop?
- Will anything other than exclusion work? We have young children and live in the burbs, so electric fencing is a non-starter.
- Any effective (and affordable and organic) sprays I should try out?
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 09, 2013 01:42AM
John - we're in SE Ohio and the deer are unstoppable. I'm convinced that there is no method that works except for a physical barrier keeping them from getting to your trees; don't waste your money on sprays, predator pee, etc. We're putting up 7' fencing to keep them out of the dwarf/semi orchard. The trees in the standard orchard have gotten above browsing height, so I'm writing off the low-hanging fruit and not bothering to fence that area. In the future, standard trees with healthy spacing (20-25') will get their own individual fence rings as this is cheaper per tree than fencing in the whole area. Those economics don't hold up with densely planted dwarf trees and it's cheaper to fence their whole area.

Josh Klatt
Ohio River Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 09, 2013 11:42AM
Every grower will eventually come to that conclusion, that the physical barrier is the only option. Since a moat, although cool, is likely more work, the fence reigns supreme. The problem as I see it is that trees are relatively cheap (that 30.00 tree gives about 25,000 pounds of fruit over its lifetime), so it is tempting to spend all your money on stock. That translates to as many trees as you have the energy to dig holes for. Now, even though we sell trees for a living, I always tell out customers protection first, trees second. When we put in our fence it cost around a buck a foot for the fence and wire. Thus an acre is 824 dollars. We had trees to hang them on, but a 12 foot cedar pole can be had for about 5 bucks, placed about 12 feet apart, so you will have to add that in. Ours is 6 foot welded wire with 3 strands of high tensile wire above. With light maintenance we get no yearly costs above that initial expense, no deer browse, and no stress. Compare the cost of delayed production from deer browsing the trees into bushes and it appears to quickly pay for itself. As an alternative, those little corrals can serve temporarily until you can save up for proper fencing, but they get annoying in the long term when you want to get in to check on the trees. Now think about that fence covered in grapes, espaliered pears and hops. We are planting and twining trees through the fence so by the time the fence rusts away, a living fence will be taking its place. Remember the ideal is to take a problem and turn it into an asset.
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 09, 2013 08:47PM
Here might be a time for a good experiment . Some years ago after I had spent several $1000 on a 7 foot fence and had acquired a couple beautiful kerilian bear dog crosses to help keep the deer away we went to visit some new friends that lived out in the toolies . No matter what you wanted to do you had to pull trees , and there were deer , lots of them .
They had the most beautiful vegetable garden . ( the people not the deer ) Squash., pumpkins , carrots you name it . approx. size 50x100 . and the deer did not bother it . Around this garden was a fence ,
two stands of fishing line . One about 18" the other about 36-40" . Their explanation , the deer can see a solid fence and they know how high they have to jump , with the fishing line they don't , they just keep going around feel the line and back off . That was 4yrs ago and they've had a gorgeous garden every time we've gone out . Could it be that we make things more than they need to be , that something so simple would work . To late for me if some one wants to trial this , would be interesting to know .

Hillview Heritage Farm
Zone 5*in British Columbia
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 14, 2013 12:41AM
Great info on the fence Todd - can you share manufacturer / supplier for the fencing and posts ? Your price sounds better than what I've been able to work out - even when cutting my own posts.... and speaking of posts: Is there any organic / holistic lumber treatment that will extend the life of the wooden posts we put in the ground ?

David - Definitely going to try the fishing line on a small section of orchard !

Josh Klatt
Ohio River Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 14, 2013 11:44PM
plant skydd has worked for other plants .. havent tried it on fruit trees . How about motion sensor water sprinklers ?
Re: Deer Damage - does it get better?
April 14, 2013 11:47PM
About the fishing line .. i have tried this method for smaller patches of plants and your right .. they get kinda spooked when they run into something they cant see



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/14/2013 11:48PM by Paul Townsend.
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