Besides proper maintenance, such as weeding, watering and pruning, there is another important key to the successful survival and growth of newly planted trees. It is protection! As they establish strong roots, chunks and branches and developed foliage, young trees are very vulnerable to DEER damage. Of course, extreme weather conditions and property disturbance in the area Where they are planted are also potential hazards, but the biggest threat that young trees face over the seasons is from deer. From August to March bucks damage their tender bark by rubbing their antlers on it. Deers also will happily browse year round on their foliage and young tweaks twins. So it is essential that homeowners establish protective caging around newly planted young trees that will thwart were this potential damage.
Necessary equipment for a tree cage and installing a tree cage
A protective cage should be substantial enough to last several seasons as the young tree matures. First, assemble the necessary tools and materials:
- Four sturdy, 6 foot tall, 1“ x 1“ wooden stakes,
- A pounder, or, mallet, or other device to pound the stakes into the soil around the young tree.
- Deer netting (5 foot wide), available at Home Depot‘s online store through Amazon or some hardware stores, box, stores, or plant nurseries. Most lightweight deer netting is wider than 5 feet so you will have to cut it to the appropriate size. Do not use blueberry netting.
- Twist ties, available, either pre-cut, or on a spool with a cutter; or 6 inch zip or cable straps.
- With a sharpie, pencil, mark it, 1 foot up from the bottom of each wooden stake to signal when each stake is inserted to the depth of 1 foot into the ground.
- Determine the location of each of the four stakes, so that no stake is closer than 6 inches to the leaves or branches of the young tree.
- Situate each pair of sticks opposite one another to make a square.
- Drive an iron stake or auger into the ground chimney a 1 foot deep pole for each of the wooden sticks. Insert each steak into each of the wooden stakes. Insert each stake and use a mallet or stake pounder to assure it fits snuggly into the hole. If a steak wobbles pour some small, gravel or insert a small stick as a wedge into the hole to make the post securely upright.
- Attach deer fencing to the wooden stakes, using twist ties, or zip straps to establish a protective cage around the tree. Attach approximately three twist ties per stick to fasten the fencing to each stick –one near the top, one mirror at the middle, and one near the bottom of the stake. Attach the netting so that the bottom of the cage is about 1 foot off the ground. This helps facilitate watering and waiting at the base of the tree.
Maintaining tree cages
Tree caging is very successful if properly done. It will provide protection against deer damage to small, low, branched young trees, year-round for at least 2 to 4 years. Eventually, when the lower branches of a deciduous tree can be safely trimmed from its track — usually when the tree reaches 8 to 10 feet tall or more –- the cage can be removed and replaced by protective tubing or garden fencing wrapped around the trunk. Do not use perforated plastic drain pipe. Typically deer never really disappear from our region so again, depending on the tree type or species, it will take several years before it will be able to withstand deer visits, without protection.