Which Apples Do Deer Like The Best? - Knowledgebase Question

Pinckney, MI
Question by rfike
September 7, 2000
I OWN 15 ACRES IN NORTHERN LOWER MICHIGAN, IN ANTRIM COUNTY, WHICH IS ABOUT 35 MILES EAST OF TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN. THE SOIL ON MY PROPERTY IS THE TYPE KNOWN AS "KALKASKA SAND". THE LAND IS MOSTLY AN OLD CHRISTMAS TREE FARM, BUT I HAVE 2 CLEARINGS IN WHICH TO GROW FRUIT TREES.

I WOULD LIKE TO PLANT APPLE TREES FOR THE DEER IN THE AREA. I AM INTERSTED ONLY IN VARIETIES THAT DEER LIKE THE BEST. I HAVE OFTEN SEEN DEER SKIP BY ONE APPLE TREE TO GO OVER TO ANOTHER WHERE THEY LIKE THE APPLES MORE. ONLY WHEN THOSE ARE GONE WILL THEY START ON THE "LESS APPETIZING" APPLES. I WISH TO ALSO HAVE A WIDE RANGE OF RIPENING/FALLING TIMES, SO THE HARVEST FOR THE DEER IS SPREAD OUT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
I AM THINKING OF PLANTING ABOUT 2 DOZEN TREES, STANDARD SIZE, NOT DWARF, GROWN ON THEIR OWN ROOTSTOCK. THEY NEED TO BE HARDY TO MICHIGAN WINTERS, BE ABLE TO POLLENATE EACH OTHER, AND NOT REQUIRE CONSTANT BABYING, SINCE I LIVE ABOUT 400 MILES FROM THIS PROPERTY. I WILL BE ABLE TO SPRAY WITH DORMANT OIL EACH SPRING, BUT THAT IS ABOUT ALL THE MAINTENANCE I WOULD HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO. I DO NOT USE POISONS ON MY PROPERTY. ALL OF THE PLANTING HOLES WOULD BE PROPERLY DUG, WITH PEAT MOSS AND COMPOST TURNED IN, AND THE TREES WOULD BE WELL MULCHED TO KEEP IN MOISTURE.
DO YOU HAVE RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO THE TYPES OF TREES I SHOULD PLANT?

THANK YOU


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Answer from NGA
September 7, 2000

0

In my experience, deer will eat just about any apple that is available once the weather turns cold and they are hungry. The apparently selective browsing you saw could be the result of their preference for riper apples or the application of a repellent spray to some trees and not to others. (Most commercial growers go to great lengths to reduce deer browse to both the apple crop and to the trees themselves.)

Since you will not be on site to monitor the trees, you will need to plant the most disease resistant varieties possible as well as with rootstock suited to your soil, and of varieties that meet hardiness requirements and with a bloom, pollination and fruiting sequence you desire. I would suggest you consult with your local county extension with regard to specific varieties known to do particularly well in your area. You should also discuss with them the suggested routine sequence and timing of spray applications in your area with an eye on minimizing what needs to be done yet still yield a decent crop and keep the trees healthy enough to be long lived. They should be familiar with prevalent insect and disease problems for that area as well.

You might also bone up on correct pruning techniques to help keep the trees healthy for the long haul. Keep in mind too that establishing a tree planting requires regular monitoring and possibly routine watering -- certainly during the first year and possibly as long as three years, particularly if there is a hot or dry summer season, or a dry fall.

The telephone number in Livingston County is 546-3950. The number in Antrim County is 533-8818.

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