Winter desication and deer.

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by sgbotsford, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford Active Member

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    Location:
    Rural Edmonton Alberta area, Canada
    I'm in Alberta, zone 3. I have three problems that may have a common solution:

    Problem 1. Deer are eating my easter white cedar and many of my pines.

    Problem 2. Spruce and pine suffer from sun scald.

    Problem 3. Firs are suffering from a fungal needlecast.

    Would any of the following ideas work?

    A: To reduce sunscald, paint the trees white. Do this in late fall after chance of rain is small. If we get a warm snap, may need to reapply.

    The notion is to use something like white wash combined with a sticking agent, or possibly bordeaux's solution, or possibly white latex paint diluted with water, possibly with a wetting agent.

    The notion is that if the tree is lighter coloured, it won't warm up as much and needle moisture will be saved.

    B: To reduce deer snacking add potassium alum to the mix. This is both bitter and astringent and tastes terrible. To people. Any one know about the effect on deer?

    C: Bordeaux's solution is already a fungicide, and gets a mention for controlling needle cast on firs. but when to use it? There are a couple of commercial chemicals that are registered for use on firs, but reading the data sheets makes me reluctant to use them.
     
  2. pinenut

    pinenut Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    Whitehorse, Yukon Zone 0b or 1a
    A couple of winters ago deer bit off twigs of my a couple of my P cembra but didn't eat them the wasteful buggers. So I squirted most of my trees with bear spray. No more deer problem, but I'm not sure it did the trees any good.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    I've had "deer" attack the bottom branches of spruce and true fir (Abies), leave clipped off looking pieces lying by at least one of the trees.

    Until I realized it was rabbits doing it. Before that I wondered about deer being willing and able to eat Pine Family conifers, even the Thuja foliage is a winter food eaten when there is a lack of preferred browse. And of course the pruner-like biting involved with my plantings would be something accomplished using rodent teeth, and not the mouths of deer.
     
  4. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford Active Member

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    Location:
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    I've got Y&(*(P##@(*&$ big rabbits then. <grin>

    I do have minor amounts of rabbit damage too. But I doubt that rabbits will take off all the twigs with needles off from top of snowline to 4 feet above ground, and not leave many twigs on the ground.
     
  5. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford Active Member

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    Location:
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    # Dealing with Deer
    ## Or, as I now refer to them, *"hoof rats".*

    In 2019 I came out to a tree farm where most of my pines and cedars had been eaten from ground level to 4 feet above ground. Tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

    I've been researching deer damage since.

    If you are serious about this, you need defence in depth.

    ### Fences

    If Bambi is starving, he will ignore all repellants and deterrents. There are several styles of fence you can put up.

    All boundary region defences will work to keep Bambi in, as well as out. If you forgot to close the gate, and Bambi wanders in, he may not find the gate on the way out. So now you force him to dine on your fine buffet of choice apple trees.

    * 8 foot elk fence. The wire fence part of this is about \$1.50/running foot if you catch the sales at Co-Op. You need posts every 15 feet from one source. The fence needs to secured to the ground, otherwise Bambi will push a nose under, and weasel his way through.

    * An opaque fence 5-6 feet high. Deer won't jump if they can't see their landing place. One of the ways to do this is to plant a row of shrubs to back up the fence. This takes a while to grow. Meanwhile, Bambi is practicing the Fence Jump.

    * A pair of fences, with the outer one dog proof, and the inner one moderately deer proof. You also need a dog that has a hate on for deer. The idea here is that you are creating a deer unfriendly zone. It helps if you have the mindset of a cold war era East German Stasi goon.

    * Electric fences. Best way is a multiple strand fence with alternate wires charged and the other ones grounded. This helps in winter when the ground isn't sufficiently conductive to give Bambi a good jolt. Electric fences have to be regularly checked that they aren't shorted to ground by wayward grass or bush. Normal practices is to keep a few feet of bare earth.

    * Peanut butter fence. This consists of a single strand electric fence at nose level. The fence is baited with peanut butter by taking sections of soda can aluminum, folding in half around the wire and including a blob of peanut butter between the leaves. Secure with a staple. The idea here is that Bambi will be attracted to the peanut butter, and get a *zot* on his sensitive nose or tongue. Bambi, is conditioned to avoid shiny bits of aluminum. Hang similar bits of aluminum baited with peanut butter from the trees you wish to protect.

    ### Aversions

    The peanut butter fence is a case of trained aversion. You create an unpleasant association with some stimulus, and the deer avoid that stimulus. The problem with aversion training on your plants: Bambi has to eat your plant to find out there is a problem with it.

    When you spray anything, you have to worry about how long it will stay. Some things come off with the next rain. There are spray adjuvants generically called 'sticking agents' or 'stickers' that you can add to the mix to keep something else from washing off readily.

    * Bitter agents. There are several of these on the market. You spray on the plant to make it taste bad. Apparently deer given a choice between bitter food and plain, will choose the plain, but they don't work very hard to avoid the bitter.

    * Hot pepper agents. Essentially ground up jalapeno or hotter peppers sprayed on your plants. This can be difficult to apply.

    ### Deterrents.

    Many things work for a while, or when Bambi is snacking and not starving. Deer aren't very bright: It doesn't take much in the way of brains to sneak up on a twig. Anything strange either sight or smell or sound set them running. But after a while, they become accustomed to the presence, and return. One article put it, "Anything works for three weeks"

    * Scents. Strong herbal scents are supposed to repel deer. Peppermint has been recommended by several sources. Lavender also. Similar logic behind coyote urine, human hair, scented bar soap. The problem with these: Limited reach. The effect of the repellant is only about a meter.

    * **Sound Cannon** Think in terms of automated thunder. Deer acclimate to a regular blast quite quickly. Making the timing irregular helps. Even better is to make them motion sensitive.

    * **Moving Sparkly Things** Old CD's, pie pans, strips of aluminum baking pans, beer can spinners. Deer are attuned to movement. Could be a coyote sneaking up on a faun, or a cougar considering a venison lunch. But there is lots of natural movement when the wind blows. These are all "three weeks" items.
     
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