Friday, January 20, 2017

Home Orchard Chores. Deer and Rabbit protection. 1.19.17

Stone Fruits.  Image via

Today I did some orchard chores.

Last year I planted 3 blackberry cultivars, 5 plants of "Prime-Ark Freedom", a thornless primocane upright blackberry, 3 plants of "Ebony King", a reduced thorn standard upright blackberry, and one plant of "Columbia Star", a new thornless trailing blackberry. Most were in the fig tree row, and were subjected to deer and rabbit foraging. Prime-Ark Freedom was much loved by rabbits, while all of them were chewed, chopped off, and pulled up, by deer.

Yesterday and today I prepped an orchard bed, which consists of the mini-dwarf "Liberty" apple and dwarf "Jonagold" that I moved from Vancouver earlier this winter, and extends to a semidwarf "Winecrisp" apple that I planted bare-root in early 2016. This bed was squashes and tomatoes in 2016. I fenced it off, using 1-inch mesh plastic fencing. This fencing is better to avoid deer browsing, because they cant pull leaves and stems through the mesh, unlike metal 2 x 4 inch fencing.

There was room for a row of the 3 Ebony King blackberries, and separately for the "Columbia Star" blackberry, which will need a trellis. These are not protected from rabbits, who only seemed to like the "Prime-Ark Freedom" variety. In a separate bed, with fencing that should also protect from rabbits, I planted the "Prime-Ark Freedom" plants. Some of these look like they had significant freeze damage.

Persimmons.  Image via
The ground is quite wet. I tried to minimize any tromping, by staying off the garden soil as much as possible and working from the edges.

I also worked on deer fences in the main orchard. Mostly, I now have larger cages for several of the trees, which were subjected to deer browsing via pulling stems through the larger fencing openings. Most got the 1 inch plastic mesh. I have about 5 trees remaining that need some deer cage adjustments, mainly making the cages bigger.

Most of the deer cages are as big as they will ever need to be.  As the trees grow larger, most will be too high for normal deer browsing.   The deer cages are a hassle, and make it more difficult to mulch, weed, prune, and otherwise maintain the area.  Over the next few years, I hope to remove several if not most of the cages, and change to just mowing between trees.


  1. Hi Daniel, are you mostly using the poly deer fencing? HD has it, but in 7.5' width ... photos on previous posts about deer fence looks like you're using about 4' stuff ... are you just cutting the wider stuff in half? I really like that you're using old fir (?) branches for fence posts - looks nice. Jack

    1. Jack, mine was from Lowes. Home Depot in Portland and Vancouver didn't carry it. This is black poly, 1 inch mesh. I think it was around $25 for 50 linear feet but not sure. I think it's 4 feet tall but will have to check. Mine actually doesn't go to the ground, it starts about a foot above the ground. That helps with maintenance of mulch and weed management / mowing. Deer don't seem to reach or go under it. Since it does not go to the ground, rabbits are not deterred but they don't matter for most orchard trees.

      You're right, those are old tree branches, fir and anything else about the same height and girth. They last at least a few years and are free. I like that too, thanks!

    2. Forgot to ad - I know they have some that is sold as deer fencing, but this was just with the fencing stuff without that designation, big rolls of the stuff. Also, I use the zip-ties to put it up. I leave one section fastened with clothespins instead of zip ties, as sort of a gate for when I want to get in for maintenance or, hopefully, picking fruits.

    3. Thank you, Daniel. Homedepot doesn't have anything like it locally; it's a special order item, at full-price of course. Will check Lowes next trip to Silverdale.

      We should have a fence in place soon, to ward off not only deer, but mountain beaver. Routinely we have cougar, bobcat and coyotes here as well, though I don't think they would bother anything.

      Using zip ties is a great idea. Thanks for that! I inherited a bunch of them from Dad. Lots of fir branches around too. And young alder and bitter-cherry I cut down last summer.

      Seeing the branches in your photos triggered an idea... Have you ever used a flower bulb auger to make holes for them?

      Growing up in suburbia and daily commuting to a certain airplane maker for work, left me with a commercial "buy everything" mindset. I so appreciate a 'use what you have' innovative approach to gardening. Patch-work type gardens and yards have always appealed to me, but I've never had one - only plot and row type gardens. So boring! I must have drawn up a dozen garden sketches this winter before coming up with a more artistic layout.

      Your blog is very inspirational, Daniel! Thank you! Jack

    4. Jack, thanks for the kind words.
      I have not used a auger but it sounds better than what I do, which is use a shovel to dig a hole then fill in around the post. Good idea!

      I try not to let myself get into a "buy everything" mindset, for a few reasons. I'm too cheap. Creativity is a way to keep my mind active. I don't like being dependent on corporations to make things I could make myself, and without that much work at that. It's environmentally more friendly to make most thinks yourself, and reuse or re-purpose stuff, scrounge and make. But that's just my thing, each to their own.