Don’t Eat That!

Posted on: April 9, 2019

Everyone has some particular food item(s) that they just loathe to eat.  I would not consider myself a picky eater but I do not and will not eat hard boiled eggs and also most types of beans. (I will not eat them in a jar, I will not eat them in a car!)  I find both revolting for different reasons.  However, if we ever had a zombie apocalypse, food became scarce and I stumbled upon a can of lima beans and a package of vacuum sealed hard boiled eggs, would I eat them? I guess if I was hungry enough and there were truly no other options.

The same goes for those four legged hooved jerks that roam our nursery on the regular.  We can count on them to browse on Emerald Green Arbs and Eastern Red Cedars but what we don’t count on is when they go after Dragon Ladies, (ouch!), Nellies and Yule Bright Hollies.  Apparently when their preferred food source is scarce, they will eat just about anything.

Perhaps worse than browsing damage though, is the annoying habit that these same creatures have of rubbing their antlers on the trunks of trees, rendering them unsaleable for a period of time and in some cases, forever.  It is tragic to grow a tree for years upon years only to have it ruined in a few moments.  Take for example, Gingkos. Gingko and TIlia are two deer favorites. It seems no effort is too great to protect the trunks of these high demand trees.  The trouble is, that with Gingko in particular, a serious wound will never heal to the point where it will not be noticeable, making it unsaleable to most customers.

Take a look at the Gingko below. This tree was planted in 2008. 10 years we careful cultivated and cared for it, held it back, making it unavailable to our customers for all these years in the hopes that someday we would have Ginkgo available in a larger caliper size only to have it destroyed by an unwelcome nursery visitor.  (Insert multiple profanities here….).

So what can we do to prevent deer from attacking our most valuable commodities? Ruppert Nurseries employs a number of different tactics. Some fields are fenced which is by far the most effect but also by far the most expensive method. The upside though is that it can be depreciated and other than routine maintenance lasts for many years.   All trees that are planted in unfenced areas get at least one deer guard; a hard mesh plastic sleeve with an opening on one side allowing us to slip the guards around the trunk of the trees.  We zip tie the guards on which is generally effective unless your trees are under beaver attack.

Wait, I should tell that story while we’re here.  Remember that time when a colony of beavers with whom we had been peacefully coexisting for many years became aware one day that they lived on a tree farm? You don’t remember that one? Well, that’s just how it went down. Our family of beavers destroyed 166 trees in a matter of just a few weeks.  Their pattern of destruction was total obliteration. They wiped out an entire row of Regal Price oaks. They took a random sampling of sugar maples, styrax, gingkos and Cercidiphyllum to name a few. Almost like they were sampling the goods.  We did manage to confound them though by staking our young willow oaks with fiberglass stakes which were secured to the trunks of the trees. When the beavers “disconnected” the tops of these trees from their roots, they could not figure out how to detach them from the stakes so these trees hung out, two halves detached from each other until we realized they were dead. No leaves were a dead giveaway. (No pun intended!).

Back to deer proofing.  As many of you know we use dogs in the nursery to control the damage done by herds of white tailed deer.  We are down to just two dogs now.  The remainder of our K9 crew was approaching their twilight years we found them to be less and less interested in doing their jobs. In a residential setting you are less likely to have serious deer damage in your yard if your dog, particularly if you dog is large, fast and has a loud bark. Even better if your dog spends appreciable time outside.

Some other methods that might work well are using a predator urine product such a coyote urine. There are also deer deterrent products that are not urine based but are usually equally distasteful in their aromas.  I have also heard on numerous occasions that coffee grounds will deter deer as well although I have yet to test that method. I should probably give that one the old college try though as I have no shortage of coffee grounds with which to experiment. I could probably also build a fence from empty wine bottles. (I might just be on to something here!)

Despite our best efforts though, we do still suffer an unacceptable amount of deer damage. So if your trees, like many of ours become browsed or rubbed, what can you do?   Often times the wounds are minor and will heal on their own in a relatively short period of time. Trees are neat like that. They heal their wounds by a process called CODIT (Compartmentalization Of Decay In Trees).  Sometimes the damage caused by a deer can be uneven and rough. You can help your trees to heal by cleaning up the wounded area with a series of sharp cuts to help even out these areas and removing some of the loose and unsightly bark.  The best way to do this is with a chisel and a hammer, cleaning up the jagged edges of a wound. This will help the new callus bark that forms to grow more evenly and in a more aesthetic fashion.

Resist the urge to want to wrap the damaged area with tree tape or any other sort of product that will cover the bark.  It is largely accepted these days by arborist that tree wrap can in fact be a detriment to a tree’s health.  Tree wrap can harm a tree if wrapped too tightly. New bark will often grow right around the wrap, incorporating the wrap into the new bark, almost swallowing it.  Trunk wrap not wrapped tightly enough can allow moisture into the area between the wrap and the trunk creating a perfect environment for rot.  This gap can also become an ideal area for insects to invade between the wrap and the tree. I have peeled back many a tree wrap and found colonies of insects living under there.  YUK!

One product we do like and sometimes use at Ruppert Nurseries is Lac Balsam. This is a Canadian product that acts like a liquid bandage. (Jury is out if Canada’s best introduction to date is Lac Balm or Poutine… might be a toss up!) It comes in a tube with a little scrub brush under the cap.  To apply, you squeeze a small amount onto the scrub brush and apply to the wound. This product comes out a dark greenish brown and blends nicely into most types of bark.  It protects the open wound from insect and disease while allowing the tree to breath and do its healing on its own.  Lac Balsam is available through TreeStuff.com.  Go get it.  Do it. You won’t regret it.

I sure do hope there is never a zombie apocalypse, or any other type or apocalypse for that matter. Because I don’t ever really want to have to resort to a diet of canned beans and vacuum sealed eggs. Perhaps though, I should give a steady diet of Dragon lady with a side of Yule bright a try!  It’s got to be better than hard boiled eggs!

Ronda Roemmelt, CPH

ISA Certified Arborist