Save $25 When You Buy $50 Or More! October Sale Ends Soon!

Young Trees Need Their Bark Protected From Hungry Rabbits, Horny Deer & Even the Sun!
Young Trees Need Their Bark ProtectedFrom Hungry Rabbits, Horny Deer & Even the Sun!

Question. I wrap my young trees to protect them from deer rubbing their antlers against them and destroying the bark—and in some cases killing the trees. I wrap from about a foot off the ground to a height of about four feet. Previously, I've had the bark completely stripped off young trees, which of course then died. But I haven't even had a single 'scratch' in the three years that I've been wrapping the trees from mid-October to sometime in February. I've been using 6" wide commercial paper and fiber mesh wraps, but it seems like 36" fiberglass window screening would work just as well and be a lot easier to wrap around the trunk instead of 6" wide paper or fiber. Your thoughts please.

---John in McLean VA (but whose main concern is his 'get-away' place in Charles County, MD; near the Potomac River)

Answer. Well, first I want to thank John for this very timely reminder that young trees need protection in the winter against horny young bucks rubbing their antlers against their bark—which the young males do both to mark their territory and to help remove the velvety covering on their brand new antlers.

In addition to that danger, deer of both sexes will often nibble on the bark of young trees during harsh winters (especially fruit trees, whose bark must taste a little bit like the fruit the tree would have produced had these unstoppable stomachs with legs not killed it). The same is true for rabbits, who attack down low. And if any creature succeeds in eating or otherwise destroying the bark in a complete circle around the tree, the tree is a goner…

….Which is why I used tree guards on all my peach trees when they were babies. These were simple spirals of white plastic that were easy to get on and off the trunks of the trees. As per the instructions and ancient advice, I put the tree guards on at Halloween and took them off around Easter, heeding the warning that just leaving them on year-round could do damage to the tree by restricting the bark while it was actively growing.

Now, I always thought that a substantial and sturdy material was necessary to achieve the right level of protection—like my plastic guards or the small metal cages I've seen other people using in our deer-infested area, and I told John that I was skeptical that paper wraps would even be sold for this purpose. So John sent me links to his suppliers, and it turns out that these products are actually designed to protect trees from sunscald—a condition that can occur when bright summer sun shines on a tree so strongly that it warms it up enough to get a little sap flowing. Then, when the temperature plummets that night, the bark splits open, stressing the tree and creating an opening for insects to move in.

Sunscald splits are especially prevalent in regions with warm, sunny days and freezing cold nights, as a Colorado Extension Bulletin on the subject warns is a common occurrence in many parts of that state. Sunscald can also be caused indirectly, when bright sunshine reflects off of a deep white snow cover. (Those of us who have learned to wear sunglasses when out shoveling on a sunny day know how blinding that snow glare can be!)

READ COMPLETE ANSWER