The Q&A Archives: Mt. Fuji Cherry Trees v. Deer

Question: Good morning-
I purchased two Mt. Fuji Flowering Cherry trees in April of this season, and planted them right away. They produced foliage almost immediately. I used Miracle Grow Tree & Shrub spikes to feed them. However, and to my dismay, we have deer, and evidently, deer like the taste of my MF Cherry trees. They ate all the foliage as far up as they could reach on both trees. One of the trees still has foliage near the top (they are both about 8' tall), but the other doesn't.
A local nursery gave me some fertilizer (not for fertilizing, but for deer control) to keep the deer away, but I'm wondering if it's too late. I'm in Zone 5, and live up on a somewhat windy hill (comes off the back 40 at a pretty good clip during the winter months).
Is there anything else I can do now that the damage is done for this year? Will the trees survive?
Soil is excellent where we are. About 1.5 feet of good topsoil, and then some clay. Very little sand in the immediate area (new construction, and only used for backfill for the leach field (which is about 25' away from one of the trees. The other tree is further away from the house, and doesn't have the sand/leachfield issue).

What can I expect from here on out?
By the way, thanks so much for your wonderful site! I've come here for reference often this (my first) gardening season, and it's a WEALTH of information!

Tina Richard
Strafford, NH
Zone 5

Answer: I'm sorry about the deer. The fertilizer they gave you may have been Milorganite, this will sometimes repel them by its odor but many deer become accustomed to it and browse happily away. It also needs to be reapplied after every rain, and will not help in the winter time. Also, although it is a slow acting form of nutrients, you would not want to be fertilizing nonstop. The best thing you can do is to fence the deer away, either out of your yard or away from each tree. You might have luck using a cylinder of wire mesh wide and tall enough that they can't reach the branches over it. (I am thinking of large meshed relatively inexpensive barnyward wire sold in a roll at the hardware or lumber or home center store, about four to five feet in height minimum for the cylinder.) This will also protect the tree bark from them rubbing their antlers on it. Alternatively you could use one of the spray on repellents formulated for deer (sold at garden centers), most people have better results when they alternate between different brands so the deer do not become accustomed to the odor. Your trees may leaf still re-leaf this season, or they may not. I would be very patient and see how they do next spring, I think they are probably okay. In the meantime, do what you can to stop the damage. Keep in mind deer will eat or trample a wide variety of plants so this is going to be an ongoing problem since they are already in your yard and in the habit of eating there. Good luck!

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