Posted by Holly on Sunday, December 20, 2015
After four years of care, our fruit trees finally reached a height where deer damage isn't a concern. The deer will prune the lower branches for us, but the trees are tall enough to survive. This fall Jon decided to remove the cages from around the trees because mowing grass around the cages are a hassle, weed-whacking inside the cages several times each summer is a hassle, and all that fencing is an eye-sore. The trees looked absolutely beautiful standing proud in our field; until one night, deer decided to rub their antlers on their trunks and rip their bark off! It only took one night of exposure for twelve out of the thirty-one un-caged trees to be girdled. This was certainly a devastating blow after four years of care. Some of the trees are even loose in the ground from the force the deer exerted on their trunks.
A week after this happened, we ran into a retired DNR Forester who has had great success with hanging an empty pop can from a rope from a low branch to keep deer from rubbing. If only we knew this before the trees were girdled!
What can we do to help the trees that have already been girdled? Some say the trees will either live or die no matter what an orchardist does to help the situation. One common treatment is covering the wound with latex paint to protect the inner cambium layer and seal off the potential for disease.
If there is a strip of bark 1/4-1/2 inch thick still in-tact the full length of the trunk, the chances of survival are even higher.
This is one hard lesson learned, that's for sure!