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Growing Fruits & Berries

5 Tips for Protecting Fruit Trees from Deer and Other Wildlife

Local wildlife enjoying your saplings a bit too much? Don't miss these tips for protecting fruit trees from deer.

I’ve always loved the idea of walking into my backyard and picking an apple or some cherries right off the tree. It seems so idyllic, like a ray of sunshine will illuminate the tree and the birds will sing and it will be the most wonderful fruit I’ve ever had. I think we all know that’s not quite how it works. One thing I didn’t count on, however, was protecting fruit trees from deer. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love looking out at dusk and watching a doe enjoy a sunset stroll through my yard. What I don’t love is how they munch on my young trees before they even have a chance to grow and bear fruit. Or how they snag all the good fruit from the lower branches of slightly older trees. Birds are even worse offenders.

Fruit trees are a little more challenging to protect than a garden, too. I can’t really put a row cover over them. So I did what any gardener would do – I asked around. 

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Protecting fruit trees from deer: 5 Ways to keep wildlife away

First, let’s just agree on the fact that deer are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. If you have food they want to eat, they’ll figure out how to get to it. They can also jump pretty high, so that nice wood rail fence around your property isn’t going to keep them out. So what can you do? 

1. Build a fence. That’s what I did. If you only have a few young trees you’re trying to protect from deer, individual fences can be a good solution. Set three or four posts into the ground around your tree and wrap them with chicken wire or mesh fencing. Make sure the fencing is five to six-feet tall so deer (or rabbits) can’t get to it. The circumference of the fence should be small enough so deer can’t jump into it. This is, by far, the best solution for protecting fruit trees from deer.

2.Plant more herbs. Herbs seem to be the natural pest repellent in any garden. A lot of harmful insects are dissuaded by herbs like rosemary, sage, and mint. This is true for deer, as well. Depending on where your fruit trees are, you might find that planting some of these herbs around them will help keep deer away. 

3. Head to the shower. Deer are known to dislike the scent of soaps like Irish Spring. Grating and scattering the soap around your yard may help keep deer away.

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4. Rely on the wind. Our ruminant friends are skittish, by nature, which works to your advantage in protecting fruit trees from deer. Set up a variety of wind chimes, pinwheels, and spinners to add some spice to your garden and deter four-legged critters. It’s not a foolproof method, but it can’t hurt!

5. Get smelly. This last one comes from Bob Vila. I haven’t tried it, but it seems a number of people have had luck with this method. Make a homemade deer repellent by blending together three eggs, three tablespoons of milk, three cloves of garlic, three tablespoons of cayenne pepper, and two cups of water. Once that’s mixed, strain it into a gallon jug and fill with water. You can spray this mixture on your fruit trees or any other plants you don’t want deer, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, or any other critters getting into. 

You always have to bear in mind that nothing is perfect. Your fruit trees are no match for a hungry and determined deer. But the more unappealing you can make them, the better your chances of one day basking in the glory of a homemade cherry pie with fruit from your own yard. 

Do you have any good tips on protecting fruit trees from deer? I’d love to get your ideas in the comments. 

Explore the easiest fruit to grow at home—indoors or out! Read our FREEBIE 15 Easiest Fruits to Grow at Home, right now!

By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network, where she is responsible for generating all Daily content and managing distribution across all web, email, and social media platforms. In her producer role, she is responsible for planning, editing, and deploying all video content for collections, magazine issues, and daily tips. Amanda manages a large food and herb garden at her home in western Massachusetts. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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