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The Calendar Says Spring

Well, the calendar says spring even if the deep snow cover in most orchards is mocking us.  Most of us are eager for warmer weather; but the snow is not all bad.  It is great summer drought insurance and has insulated the ground well.  It has, however, made pruning a more difficult chore and has made the orchards of New Hampshire prime targets for hungry deer.

Deer are not neat pruners.  This tattered end should be pruned back to a bud.
Deer are not neat pruners. This tattered end should be pruned back to a bud.

This is one of those winters that proves that the only thing that works to keep deer out is a good woven wire fence.  Repellents like soap and rotten egg product sprays, coyote urine, and the like simply are no match when hunger is strong.  And deer pour through 10,000+ volt electric fences without even flinching.

What works? An 8 foot high, woven wire fence works best.  It has to be installed correctly – no gaps near the ground as deer will eagerly push it up and crawl under.  Adding a single strand or perhaps two of barbed wire at 10 inch intervals above the fence will help when snow is deep.

Fruit spurs, set to flower come May, are under attack by deer now.  Once hit, they never produce fruit again.
Fruit spurs, set to flower come May, are under attack by deer now. Once hit, they never produce fruit again.

What about the home orchard of just a couple trees or so?  Again, 8 foot woven wire, at least for the winter months is the best choice.  Use 3 or 4 stakes to support the fencing as you encircle each tree.

Do deer eat all fruit trees? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  Apples and sweet cherries may be their favorites, but when food is scarce, anything goes.

When deer pressure is low, soap helps; but with pressure high, it has little effect on hungry deer.
When deer pressure is low, soap helps; but with pressure high, it has little effect on hungry deer.

As the snow recedes, I expect to see vole damage to young trees especially.  Deep snow cover has provided voles protection from predators like coyotes and allowed voles access to tree bark above vole guards.

Voles took advantage of a missing wire vole guard and deep snows to doom this young apple tree.
Voles took advantage of a missing wire vole guard and deep snows to doom this young apple tree.

Bill Lord, March 21, 2014

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