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Do I need tree guards?

Posts: 121
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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I've recently received a large grant from the NRCS for planting a silvopasture on my farm. And like many of you, I'm al about doing things as naturally and inexpensively as possible. So here's what I don't understand... I can go buy trees for $0.25 to $0.50 each from my state forestry, and I'm going to be planting several thousand tree seedings. Since seedlings are cheap, I can do this using only money from the grant.

But when I watch videos and read articles, it seems like some people claim that if you don't have tree guards on each tree then they are going to get killed by wildlife. But tree guards are a few dollars each, which is 10x the cost of the trees!!!

So two questions:

1. For most of my trees, I will be putting an electric fence around the long rows of trees. This should protect them from my livestock and large wildlife like deer. Is that enough? What about mice and other small animals?

2. For the zone closer to my house, I'm planting 4-5 foot tall apple and pear trees. These won't be inside electric fencing. I was going to just put metal wire cages around the trees, the same ones I use for tomatoes in my garden. Will that work? I know deer come to that area in my yard, so do I need to do more to keep them away?

Thanks guys. I really want to get this right and not blow all this money by doing it wrong.
Posts: 697
Location: Porter, Indiana
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On my property, the rabbits tend to do far more damage than the deer. I use a combination of trapping and tree guards to protect the trees, and it works pretty well.

Commercial tree guards are quite pricey, so I cut 3 foot gutter covers in half and then use wires to secure three of them together into a triangular tube as shown below.

In addition to offering fantastic air circulation and withstanding the elements wonderfully, you can get the gutter covers for free (after rebate given as store credit) from Menards several times a year. The last time they ran the sale, they set the limit at 60 gutter covers per person, so depending on how time-crunched you are, you may need to enlist friends/family to buy them for you too.

EDIT: So I checked and unfortunately it looks like the closest Menard's to Danville, KY is in Louisville.
Posts: 285
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Pssstttt.....(speaks furtively) It IS political season... Ya' know all those ad signs that litter our roads and highways, made of corrugate plastic....? Just saying'....
Posts: 2806
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Dean, I've got a lot of nibbler pressure, which means there's a lot of carnage every time I plant out some trees. Deer, rabbits, wood rats, and endless smaller rodents, plus whatever it is (gophers? voles?) that digs a tunnel underneath and sucks the young plant down into the tunnel, leaving only a tuft of leaves sticking out of the ground where the tree used to be.

I don't have any effective fencing against any of this.

One thing that helps for me is to use a discarded automotive tire (this is controversial here on permies, for good reasons) as a sort of planter for trees I care about. I'm not sure why it helps, but it does. My best theory is that by raising the soil surface a few inches, ground-scurrying critters feel (and are) more exposed while they are nibbling my tree, so they don't do it. I have a LOT of raptors flying around, which ought to mean the smaller nibblers are perpetually nervous.

Another way to swap time for money in making tree protectors is to cut the tops and bottoms of of 2-liter (or 3-liter) plastic soda bottles. (If you don't buy the stuff, you'll have to scrounge them, but it's not too hard -- the people who do buy that stuff buy a ton of it!) Then set the remaining cylinder down over the young tree. If you need a closer wrap (or the wind is too strong to leave a light plastic cylinder undisturbed) just slit it down the side. It will tend to coil up automatically, leaving you with about an inch of space in the middle. Then you can just wrap it around your young tree stems, with no ties needed. Only downside to this is that in high moisture conditions you could get mold.
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Question #1 has been well covered. Except this: encourage cats. And you can do double duty with the right tree guard that also protects sun scald. I'm not so excited about the latex paint option for that if I can get a white wrapper on it.

As for #2, deer in your yard: no, the tomato cages aren't enough. 4' diameter circles 5-6' high made of Rebar or t-posts and concrete reinforcing mesh are about the cheapest options I know of. You'll need a good metal/bolt cutter for the concrete mesh. If you have a farm, you need one anyway.
Posts: 632
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My first two years I lost about 90% of my new trees to various nibblers.

The two foot tree pro tubes are a buck thirty five each if you buy 25-99.


I have also noticed that the trees in the tree tubes grow about 50% faster, so there's that.

I like the 3 foot tubes. I use 3/8" re-rod for stakes, and they last forever.

What was my time worth when I lost a whole year to the nibblers???
Posts: 442
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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e I haven't found anything nearly as successful as the tree tubes, and I have really tried! I have some unprotected 3 year old seedlings that are still a foot tall from deer pressure, and I have some prrotected 2 year trees that are 12 feet tall and growing out of the browse zone.
If you're going to the trouble to get the trees in, try to do everything to have a good survival rate - don't miss any of the following:
- Plant at the right time - late winter early spring
- Protect base from mice, rabbits, nutria, etc..
- Protect tops from deer, elk, cattle, etc.
- Make sure they have water through the summer to stay green and growing strong.

Missing any one of these could kill 90% of your trees, so make sure you do a decent job on all of them.
Posts: 53
Location: Newfoundland
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The electrical fencing is still a good idea. We don't have deer here, but we have moose, and the first year my parents planted apple trees(6'), a moose came right into our yard and 'pruned' the tree's for us.
But for smaller pests, that's going to be an issue. Especially because your doing a mass planting, sounds like 1000's of trees, a lot of things aren't going to be cost effective to you.

People try a lot of different things to protect against rabbits, etc.
Most people around here resort to making cages out of chicken wire and kindling wood stakes. Or snow-mesh, plastic orange netting, etc. Or it's normally neutral enough around here that they just leave those fabric shrub protectors over them all year round.
But there's also the plastic tubes used for weeping tiles, the black corrugated plastic tubes that can be cut to any length and then a slit put in down the side so you can just slip it around the tree trunk. Small pieces like this could easily protect a sapling for a year or two depending on how well they grow.
Some people have simply resorted to buying snow slides(the plastic sheets), and ziptying them into tubes, mainly for dog protection for a few larger trees.

For saplings, plastic milk jugs or 2lt bottles etc, with two horizontal slits made in a side will let you put a wooden stake thru it to secure it into the ground over a sapling.

Some people make sleeves from thick plastic bags(sandbags mostly, with the bottom cut off), and making a triangle or square out of wooden stakes. Labour intensive, but for the cost of kindling(free) and a box of bags(34$/100, or 187$/500), they work out to be about 36 cents without the labour, and that's from online hardware store quotes, I'm sure you could find them cheaper from an actual bulk store.

That doesn't help if you have issues with moles/gophers, etc, from underground. I was once told that the issue with the underground critters is that they can sense the disturbed ground where you insert a tree, usually because they punch thru and impede on existing tunnels. There's no real way to protect against them, especially for small saplings. For larger trees or shrubs, when I lived in BC, I witnessed a person try and resort to actually digging holes to big for the tree, lining it with a chicken wire cage, and then back filing with small stone and pottery shards before putting more soil and planting the tree, then making a big cage out of a tomato cage wrapped with a fine wire screening mesh (admittedly this person was a bit, shall we say Kamloopy, but they'd just lost 5 combo espaliers to voles).

Posts: 98
Location: Hamburg, Germany
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We don't have deer here, but we have rabbits and moles.

I don't care about the moles - theoretically they're just eating earthworms, which my garden is full of. They're also aerating the wet clay soil, and I'm planning on dumping seeds on every new mole hill (no-dig planting! ). If I cared about a pretty lawn I'd probably be upset, but that's the least of my issues. Of course, I can say this as they haven't surfaced in my raised annual beds yet. Across the access road is a park when it's not being used as a steeplechase course (the standard racecourse is on the other side) and the racecourse owners must be going crazy trying to deal with the mole invasion.

Most of the gardens here sink paver stones all along the perimeter about a foot deep. The rabbits hang out in the park across the street, and I'm on the edge against the street, AND my pavers are kind of ragged, so I've largely given up. I put wire cages around anything new until it's established, and over my raised beds, which works ok.

Dogs and guns aren't an option, so I'm trying to control the urge to buy a pet shop ferret and turn it loose on the rabbits. Germany is supposed to be full of martens, which would be even more effective. I wonder how I could invite them in?
Posts: 33
Location: North Idaho
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On my property we have very high deer and elk numbers and it shows in the established vegetation. Many of the native and naturalized browse species are eaten down to nibs and most can't establish very well except sometimes you'll see these small heavily browsed shrubs that look like a bonsai tree that somehow just barely hang on. There are however a few browse resistant species that are able to flourish when everything else is gobbled up. These are almost always thorny naturalized shrubs. They include Dog and Sweetbriar Roses and Himalayan Blackberry. The deer will still browse on these somewhat, but because of the thorns they do significantly much less damage.  
Something amazing happens when a tree or shrub seedling  grows amongst the canes of the thorny deer resistant shrub. The canes act as a natural deer fence and essentially protect it from being overbrowsed basically acting as a nurse plant in overbrowsed habitats and helps forests reestablish.  On my property I have observed this happening with pine, fir, feral apple, hawthorn, plum and pear trees all growing out the top of rose and blackberry shrubs. I have taken advantage of this natural relationship on my property and I've started planting trees between and underneath the canes of these thorny shrubs. The dappled shade encourages the trees to grow taller faster at least until they grow above the shrubs. Then they have full sun and start to really fill out.
If you don't already have any of these thorny shrub species growing on your property like do then I would recommend trying to plant some. I would try natives first, but to me the real winners here seem to be the naturalized blackberries and roses. And if your worried about the spread of the nonnative shrub then once your trees are established and are above the browse height then you can continuously chop and drop the nurse plants for mulch until they die out.
We should throw him a surprise party. It will cheer him up. We can use this tiny ad:
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