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 KCGardens.KansasCity.com.