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Written By Kris Brown.

Posted on April 3rd, 2024.

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In late-January 2023, I placed my first tree and shrub seedling order from the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District office. I ordered several fruit trees and then some hazelnut, elderberry, and cranberry seedlings that came in bundles of 10. This blog documents how my wife Jess and I planted and protected these mast-producing trees and shrubs in mid-April 2023.

Our front yard gets full sun, whereas the back yard gets full and partial sun in places. We decided to plant the three fruit trees (2 apple and 1 peach) in the front yard and to distribute the shrubs all around.

We spaced the fruit trees roughly 10 feet apart and dug holes deep and wide enough so that the roots would be covered with soil and well-distributed within the space. The depth part was a bit tricky on the steep slope, but we used a shovel handle to estimate the depth we would need to backfill.

 A fruit tree seedling placed in an excavated hole to estimate the depth of soil needed to cover the tree roots.

Estimating the depth of backfill soil needed to cover the tree roots.

After covering about half of the root depth, we dropped in one fertilizer tablet, finished backfilling, and tamped the soil with our feet and hands. We replaced the sod in a ring around the root collar to aid in retaining moisture.

Kris Brown replaces the sod around a newly planted apple tree seedling.

Covering the bare soil with sod to retain moisture.

Jess stands proudly next to her planted apple tree seedling. She placed wood chips on top of the sod for added moisture retention.

Jess beaming after planting her apple tree seedling.

Regarding deer browse protection, the previous residents of our home left 13 wire cages in the woods for us to use. I also purchased 3 tree tubes with my tree and shrub order, so roughly half of our planted trees and shrubs would have some protection.

A heavy wire cage wrapped in a cylinder around the planted apple tree seedling. The cage is 5 to 6 feet tall.

Wire cage surrounding a planted apple tree.

A few days after planting, I checked our fruit trees and found that deer had munched most of the apple tree buds. They left the peach tree alone. This made me second-guess my nonchalant plan for deer browse protection. Deer like to come right up to the house at night and dine on our yew bushes. I should have known they would help themselves to the planted trees.

Deer browsed the apple tree buds overnight.

Deer browsed the apple tree buds.

Then, I had an idea. I recently felled several trees in the back yard and had yet to clean up the piles of cut tops. I decided to use the tops to create a mini-slash wall around the tree cages. Hopefully this works to keep the deer out, but if nothing else I’ve cleaned up my backyard mess and hopefully done Peter Smallidge proud. Peter is the New York State Extension Forester and he has done a lot of work with Brett Chezdoy around large-scale slash wall deer exclosures to promote forest regeneration.

A slash wall built tall around the wire cage for added protection against deer browse.

A mini-slash wall around the tree cage provides two layers of protection from deer.


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