Protect tree from deer

How to Grow Fruit Trees for Deer

Planting seedlings and raising them to become trees can be a rewarding experience. Seasoned tree planters will tell you getting them through the heat and drought of their first summer is the biggest obstacle. The following are some tips for first summer success.

Tree tubes and the proper spacing between seedlings can help protect them during the harsh months of their first summer.

Protection: First and foremost, put tree protectors, or tree tubes, around each and every seedling on planting day. They accelerate growth and protect your plants from deer and other plant destroying critters. Don’t plant a tree without them.

Weed control: Aggressive weeds, including grasses, will rob your seedlings of necessary moisture and nutrients. You can provide mechanical control with a hoe or weed eater, or chemical control with a contact herbicide such as glyphosate. No matter your choice, keep at least a 3-feet radius weed free around your prized plants during the growing season.

Mulch: Mulch shades the ground around your precious seedling, keeping the soil cool. It also suppresses thirsty weeds and traps moisture that would otherwise evaporate. Natural mulches such as bark, straw or leaves work well and break down into soil-building organic matter. In extremely droughty areas, fabric and plastic weed mats work exceptionally well to trap and hold moisture around the roots.

Supplement: Like humans, plants need a quality food source to stay healthy and reach their full potential. Proper fertilization encourages a strong root system that is much more capable of utilizing available soil moisture than a stressed out, underfed root system. Consider using manure-based organic or low-salt chemical fertilizers instead of traditional chemical fertilizers. Follow the instructions on the bag. And yes, it’s ok to fertilize a tree its first year.

Flowering and mast producing trees are an integral part of quality habitat, but getting them established can be a daunting task for the beginning grower. Following the prior steps to success will save you a ton of heartache and make you look like an old pro.

Protecting Pine Seedlings From Deer Browsing

Young trees are a favorite snack of hungry deer, especially in the spring and fall while there’s still snow on the ground. Most young pines can recover from minor amounts of repeat browsing as long as the terminal bud remains intact. Here is a cheap and effective solution to protect terminal bud clusters and help get your pine seedlings get through the winter.


Why Protect the Terminal Bud?

A tree seedling’s terminal bud (the bud or cluster of buds at the very top of the tree), is a key factor in determining the overall height and future growth of the tree. As long as the terminal bud remains undamaged, growth continues in a vertical manner and the tree’s natural shape is maintained. However, when the terminal bud is eaten or damaged, growth can become restricted, deformed and unbalanced. Many trees will never achieve their natural shape or true growth potential once their terminal bud is chewed off by deer. They may adapt when an adjacent branch bends upward and eventually takes over as the “leader” branch, but their growth and form may be forever compromised.

Bud Capping: A Cheap and Effective Solution

Bud capping is a method of protecting tree seedlings that has been used in forest management for years. It involves stapling a small “cap” made from paper around the terminal bud cluster on the leader branch. The caps are typically applied in the fall before snow cover forces the deer to start nibbling on whatever they can find above ground.

If left on through the following spring, new growth is simply pushed out through the opening in the folded paper. Bud caps should be applied annually until the terminal leaders are at least 4-5 feet tall and out of reach of hungry deer.

Constructing Bud Caps

To construct bud caps, cut paper into 4 x 6 inch pieces. Use the lightest weight paper possible (fax, photocopy, notebook, etc.) so that new growth can push through easily in the spring. White pines have fragile terminal buds, so the paper should only be 3 x 4 inches in size. The weight of snow sticking to the paper can cause the terminal bud to bend over, and a smaller piece of paper will not catch as much snow.

Applying Bud Caps

Using a common office stapler, fold the piece of paper around the terminal bud of the leader branch and using three staples, staple it to some needles near the top. The paper should be positioned so that the terminal bud cluster is at least 1/2 inch below the top of the paper, but no lower than the paper cap’s mid-point.

Apply each staple no more than 1 inch from the edge of the paper. Place one staple vertically near the middle edge, and one each near the top and bottom corners at 45 degree angles. The bud cap should be secured tight enough with the staples so it won’t blow off in the wind.


  • Bud caps should be applied in the fall before the first snowfall (usually October, no later than December/January).
  • A bud cap only needs to last a few months, so use a lightweight paper like computer paper or notebook paper. Caps manufactured from metal or plastic mesh can be purchased in bulk from tree farm supply companies. If you plan to leave caps on all year, they may be better than paper because they allow air and light to reach new growth.
  • Caps are normally 4×6 inches but may be smaller for tree species with weak terminal buds like white pines.
  • Use three staples, each containing some needles, to hold the cap snugly in place. Advertisement
  • Depending on the tree species, caps should be applied annually until the sapling’s terminal leader grows too tall for browsing.
  • If you have a large number of tree seedlings that need protecting, you may want to contact a local tree service to request a bid for this type of work. Bids should be submitted on a per tree or per acre basis. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, about 200-300 bud caps can be applied per hour by an experienced person and may average about 5 cents per tree.
  • Bud caps will not prevent the rest of your seedling from being eaten by deer. Most trees will survive minor browsing, however in areas of heavy browsing, bud caps may not be enough to deter deer. In these cases, use tubing or fencing to protect seedlings from damage by deer and other animals.


Hardwood Tree Seedlings

Bud caps are usually used on conifers, but hardwood seedlings (like oak) can be bud capped, too. This can also be done during the dormant season (fall), however they typically get browed most heavily as new growth emerges in the spring. As an alternative to paper bud caps, hardwood seedlings can be protected with ordinary latex party balloons. These can be applied in the fall after the seedling goes dormant (leaf off) and removed again in the spring (April/early May) before bud break. Use a balloon with the appropriate size opening and pull it down over the top buds and down over the stem. The bottom end of the balloon (the open end) can then be stretched out and stapled shut close to the stem to keep it secure.

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PHOTO: Daniel Johnson by J. Keeler Johnson September 18, 2018

Up on my northern Wisconsin farm, deer are a pretty big issue. Oh, they’re nice enough to watch frolicking in the fields or meandering along the edges of the forest, but they’re voracious eaters, very destructive and altogether too numerous. Have you ever seen 30 deer at a single time? I have.

So I’m sure you can understand my concern when I planted 10 young fruit trees to start a new orchard on my farm. It seems that deer like nothing better than to eat special plants standing out in the open—forget that there’s a whole national forest to consume, let’s focus on fruit trees—so I knew beforehand that my trees would be vulnerable to deer if left unguarded.

Because I had no intention of allowing my future orchard to be eaten by hungry deer before I’d tasted so much as a single apple or plum, I knew I needed to construct fences around the trees to keep the deer away. Because deer are stubborn, resilient and surprisingly capable of overcoming blockades, it would have to be a good fence.

Ultimately, I plan to surround the entire orchard area with 8-foot, deer-proof fencing that will eliminate the issue once and for all. But because a project of that scope takes time to prepare and construct, I needed to start with a simpler solution.

So, I wound up constructing variations of the simple, effective fence I built to protect the farm garden from marauding deer. The main ingredient, of course, was 6-foot welded wire fencing, which I attached with zip ties to a quartet of metal T-posts to form a square of protective wire around each tree. With the sides of the square measuring about 6 feet long (just enough to enclose my trees with some room to spare on each side), I needed about 25 feet of wire per tree, so 250 feet total plus 40 T-posts.

It might sound ambitious, but it was really pretty simple. Because I’m not as concerned about smaller critters in the orchard as I am in the garden, I skipped the step of adding hardware cloth to the bottom of the wire enclosures, choosing to install only the 6-foot welded wire. At this point, you might be thinking, “How will a fence just 6 feet tall keep out the deer?” Well, it’s true that deer can jump a fence of that height, but because I’m enclosing such a small area (with a tree filling most of it), it would take a very bold (or a very stupid) deer to enter such an unforgiving, restricted space.

In the end, it took very little time to construct a fence around each tree, and thus far the results have been perfect. I’ve seen plenty of deer wandering through my orchard, but I’ve found no evidence that they’ve interfered with the fences or tried to push through to grab a bite. Instead, my trees are happy and healthy, protected from harm while they wait for the taller perimeter fence to be constructed.

Because these fences are only temporary until I build that perimeter fence, I’m not too concerned about weeds coming up around each tree. However, in case weeds do start to get out of hand, I left one end of the wire around each tree disconnected from its stake, choosing instead to tie the wire in place. This means that it’s easy for me to open up the wire to access the inside of the fence, which is ideal for weeding and for adding or removing tree wrap and tree guards from the trunks.

Here’s hoping that the trees blossom and produce fruit next year.


To aid the establishment of trees in the presence of deer, the choice of the species of tree planted and the method used to protect them will be key factors. The aim of this guide is to provide advice and information on appropriate methods for protecting trees from browsing or fraying by deer.

Choice of tree species

When choosing the species of tree to plant consider the following:

  • The land use objective.
  • Match the choice of tree with the site in relation to soil type, altitude and topography.
  • Take into account the relative vulnerability of different species to deer impacts (see table below and right).

The following tables show the relative vulnerability of some common trees and shrubs to deer impacts. The table assumes that all plants are being established on appropriate soils and sites. The tables highlight which species may not require individual protection whilst others planted in the area may; e.g. pioneer species such as alder, birch and hawthorn may not require protection, whereas slower growing climax species in the same mix such as ash, oaks etc may do so. Vulnerability can also be affected by positioning and palatability of species.

relative vulnerability
High Med Low
Ash Beech Alder
Aspen Blackthorn Birches
Firs Cedar Hawthorn
Hazel Cherries Sitka spruce
Holly Corsican pine Sycamore
Norway spruce Crab apple
Oaks Elm
Rowan Larch
Scots pine Lodgepole pine
Willows & sallow

Types of Protection

There are a number of methods of protection that can be used which are described below.

Culling –maintaining low deer densities to prevent over-browsing and fraying of tree species. Culling may still be required where individual protection is in use to control populations.

Fencing*– excluding deer from areas using fences. Includes permanent, temporary and electric types. For a description of fencing types see BPG Fencing.
Tree shelters – plastic. Provide protection from browsing and barkstripping or fraying damage while the sapling remains within the tube. Height of tree shelter or guard used will depend on species of deer present – 1.2m for Roe, 1.8m for Fallow, Sika and Red deer.
Tree guards – wire or plastic mesh. Provide protection from bark-stripping or antler damage and protect the terminal bud from browsing (lateral shoots can grow through the mesh). Suitable for both broadleaves and conifers.
Plastic net guards provide suitable protection from roe deer and thicker plastic mesh guards, if well supported, also provide reasonable protection from larger species. Welded wire mesh guards give the most effective protection. In parks and amenity areas, individually made ‘basket’ guards of vertical metal palings may be constructed to provide long-term protection of specimen trees even into maturity.
Chemical repellent – chemicals applied to provide a deterrent to browsing deer. Also used to discourage deer from areas. Chemicals must be approved for use by the pesticides registration scheme.
Diversionary feeding** – crops or habitat can be protected by providing alternative feeding for wild deer. There are two potential approaches: use of artificial food stuffs and habitat management.

Method to use

To determine the most appropriate method of tree protection of the planting area, a number of factors should be taken into account. These should include:

  • The value and vulnerability of the crop;
  • The area of crop requiring protection and planting density;
    The cost of the method;
  • Labour input, aftercare and maintenance required e.g. trees grown fast and thin in guards may need staking once guards are removed;
  • The time period that the crop may be vulnerable to deer damage;
  • Deer species present (i.e. height deer can browse);
  • Potential impacts on landscape quality and access enjoyment;
  • Multi use of the area i.e. stock grazing between trees.

Based on the criteria above, the following table provides guidance on the relative comparison of different methods.1

High Pros Cons Most suitable for
Culling Positive herbivore impacts may be maintained. May provide a recreational resource and a source of income.*** May be labour intensive to plan and carry out. May require collaboration with neighbours. Opportunities may be limited in areas of regular or high public usage. All sizes of areas of valuable/ vulnerable species/crops.
Fencing* May be cost effective for large areas and densities of trees. May have less visual impact than tree guards or shelters. Offers additional protection for regeneration of other habitat species. Less cost effective for small areas.
May reduce public access opportunities. Requires regular on-going maintenance.
May prevent positive herbivore impacts. May require compensatory cull to be carried out. ****
Medium to large areas of valuable/ vulnerable species/crops.
Tree shelters Shelter may provide a microclimate which itself acts to promote growth of the tree. Less suitable for conifers, and some species of broadleaves do not favour the microclimate within the shelter. May lead to saplings that lack rigidity. Less suitable for where lateral as well as vertical growth is required e.g. for establishment of hedging or shelter-belts. May be unsightly. Medium to large areas of less valuable but vulnerable species/crops with landscape value.
Tree guards Cost effective for small areas. May be appropriate within sensitive landscapes as mesh tree guards tend to have less landscape and visual impact than plastic tubes. No barrier to public access.
May allow multi use of area. Surrounding ground vegetation may benefit from positive herbivore impacts. Tend to be relatively durable, lasting up to 20 years.
Less cost effective for large areas.
Require to be inspected and maintained on regular basis. May require to be removed and generally not reusable.
Do not protect other elements of woodland habitat.
Small areas of valuable/ vulnerable species/crops.
Chemical repellants May be a useful emergency option for small areas where immediate and over-winter protection is required. Limited duration of protection requiring regular renewal. Unsuitable for large-scale use. Less cost effective for large areas. Small areas of valuable/ vulnerable species/crops.
Diversionary feeding** Additional benefits associated with feeding of mineral or urea blocks may increase digestibility of natural forage available overwinter. Method may be expensive and labour intensive. Animals may develop a reliance on feed. Concentrations of animals at feed sites may increase local environmental damage and increase disease and parasite transmission. Small areas of valuable/ vulnerable species/crops.

Gardeners don’t need to fight off deer to stay away from trees. Just get tree protection from  

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    • Fixed Knot Deer Fence
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      • For 8′ Deer Fence
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      • For 8′ Deer Fence
      • For 7′ or 7.5′ Deer Fence
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      • For 8′ Deer Fence
      • For 7.5′ Deer Fence
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      • For 6′ Deer Fence
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      • For 6′ Deer Fence
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      • For 6′ Deer Fence
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  • Media & News
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Tree Protection Against Deer: Protecting Newly Planted Trees From Deer

There is nothing more frustrating than noticing the bark is peeled away from newly planted trees. The damage is potentially life threatening and exposes the not yet established tree to disease and pests. Deer are majestic and graceful but their feeding and rubbing hurt your plants. So if you are asking yourself, how can I protect baby trees from deer? The answers can be found just a few sentences below.

Reasons to Protect New Trees from Deer

Watching wildlife is a peaceful and sentient activity. Deer are especially marvelous to view in the woods and fields but once they are in your garden, the gloves come off. Deer tree protection is necessary for many varieties of tree, as well as the newly planted babies up to a few years old.

Deer have their preferences for nibbling, but young bark is especially appealing due to its flavor and tenderness. The worst damage is done from males who rub their antlers against the bark to remove the velvet. Deer also paw at the soil and unearth roots, damage the base of the small tree and can even unearth newly planted trees.

Protecting newly planted trees from deer in prone areas is necessary to their continued health and growth. So how can I protect baby trees from deer? This question has likely been asked since humans began to plant and agriculture became a way of life. The first step is to ascertain for certain whom the culprit is of the damaged trees. If you actually see the deer with your own eyes, you will know — but they are shy creatures and may not be evident when people are out and about.

Rabbits and other rodents also do a fair bit of damage to young trees. Deer browsing leaves ragged edges on the bark and lower branches. They have oval droppings and the damage will be higher up on the plant than rodent damage.

Methods of Deer Tree Protection

There are two easy ways to protect new trees from deer. Repellents and barriers are both useful in many instances but the combination of the two is best, as deer are wily and can get over all but the tallest fences.

Cages and Fencing

Cages and fences cordon off the area where deer browse. A deer fence must be at least 8 to 10 feet high to stop the animals from leaping into the no browse zone. Fencing is expensive but fairly reliable. Cages can be constructed from chicken wire or more glamorous materials, but the goal is to encase the sensitive tree and prevent deer damage. Cages need to be expandable to allow for tree growth while still giving deer tree protection.

Protecting newly planted trees from deer with repellents may use the animal’s sense of smell or taste to drive it away. Homemade remedies abound on the internet or try a commercial repellent for tree protection against deer.

Get Cookin’- Homemade Recipes for Deer Repellent

Actually, you don’t even need to touch a saucepan. Deer are offended by human scents such as bars of soap and hair. Hang these in old pantyhose from the tree limbs.

Protect new trees from deer with sprays you can mix up at home. A solution of 6 percent hot sauce and 94 percent water or straight blended up habaneros at 8 percent and 92 percent water will offend the deer’s sense of taste. They also seem to dislike chicken eggs mixed with water that’s sprayed on the tree bark.

Collars for Tree Protection Against Deer

Very little trees can get adequate stem protection from a homemade collar. Use PVC piping large enough to fit around the trunk with a couple of inches of room. Cut down the length of the pipe to open it up and slip it around the trunk at planting.

Heavy mesh or inexpensive wire fencing is also useful. Roll pieces of these around the trunk and secure. Any type of collar you use will need to be staked and removed when the trunk grows too large for the enclosure.

Deer antler damage to trees can be prevented | The Kansas City Star

Come winter, we can expect a growing toll that deer antlers will take on local trees. File photo by Tammy Ljungblad [email protected]

Watching Bambi prance through the woods might be enjoyable, but once this cute, furry little creature crosses the line there is going to be trouble. Deer damage is a problem in many backyards during the winter months. In fact, we are already getting reports of damage.

During fall and winter, bucks try to remove the velvet from their antlers by rubbing their antlers on trees, causing extensive damage to the bark, which often results in a slow death for the tree. Protecting trees from such damage is essential. Once the damage is done, there is little that can be done to repair the tree. Most times, the tree will need to be removed. It is recommended to protect all trees, deciduous and evergreen, under 6 to 8 inches in trunk diameter. Here are some ways.

▪ Odor deterrents: A number of products on the market deter the deer. They contain the scents of hot peppers, garlic and even urine. They should be applied at least once a month, or after every rainfall starting from early fall until late winter. Miss a timely application and the end result is damage. Best results may be achieved by alternating between products.

▪ Tree wraps: This armor method uses paper or plastic to cover the main trunk of a tree. Paper wrap is less effective as it can be worn through by the deer. Corrugated plastic tubing is a good option. But a word of caution: the friction caused by heavy rubbing can rip the bark. Tree wraps can be found at your local garden centers. Wrap the trunk, covering all exposed bark, from the base to the bottom branches. Be sure to remove the wrap in late winter/early spring before the tree leafs out.

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▪ Fencing: The most effective method is to construct a rigid fence out and around the trees. Start by using three to four heavy-duty metal fence posts. Drive them into the ground at the dripline of evergreen trees. For deciduous trees, put them two feet or more from the trunk. The fence posts provide a rigid object for the deer to rub against. You could stop there, or you could add another level of defense. For additional protection, wrap the fence posts with a woven wire. Concrete reinforcing wire or similar material works to enclose the tree and prevent the deer from getting to it.

▪ Home remedies: A number of home remedies will also keep deer at bay, but they provide spotty control. These include hanging odorous soaps and human hair in the lower branches. Control is best achieved with one of the other recommendations.

Before cute cuddly Bambi destroys your investment, take action. You will not regret the time and effort, and your trees will thank you.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with the Kansas State University Research and Extension. To get your gardening questions answered on The Star’s KC Gardens blog by university extension experts, go to

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