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 and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. 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.

6 replies on “5 Tips for Protecting Fruit Trees from Deer and Other Wildlife”

Is there anything to do for the tree once they have chewed on it? My young trees I planted last fall do not have buds yet.

I’ve had problems with deer going after my trees and flowers. I have found out that by putting Bounce Dryer sheets around the trunk and some of the branches, it seems that they leave them alone. I also have success with putting them on the flowers on the ground.

All of the above repellents work well. One thing to remember is that you need to alter the types that you use. One that repels by smell and one that repels by taste. At some point the animal is used to the smell and will eat it. Or the taste. If you alter them you are basically teaching them that they really don’t want to eat that. I lived on the edge of a big park with lots and lots of deer a night. This system really worked.

I put a couple of eggs in water and let them sit in the sun for a few days. When the smell is offensive I ad the mix and more water to my sprayer. This is the only mix that has repelled critters from hostas.
I also get bags of hair from the hair stylist and encircle the garden and trees. T

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