While reading about cherry trees, I heard that deer can be a fairly common pest. There are occasional mentions of them commonly eating the leaves, blossoms, fruit, and bark off of cherry trees. So, is this true? Will deer eat your cherry trees? I did some research to find out more.
Deer will eat cherry trees if given the chance. Cherry trees have tender leaves and thin bark that don’t defend them much from browsing deer, especially when the trees are small and young. Some fruit trees, such as citrus, have large thorns to deter deer from browsing, but cherries did not develop this trait.
So why aren’t cherries deer resistant to begin with? And how can you use these measures to keep them away from your tree?
Are Cherry Trees Deer Resistant?
We’ve already covered if deer eat citrus trees, but are cherry trees any different?
Young cherry trees are especially vulnerable to being damaged by deer, so a cherry sapling should be enclosed within some kind of fence for at least the first 2-3 years of its life. The larger a cherry tree, the more blossoms and fruit will be out of the reach of deer. But its lower branches will still be vulnerable.
Unlike citrus trees, cherry trees did not develop thorns, so they’re a bit more vulnerable when it comes to browsing herbivores.
On the other hand, if the problem you’re having is with bucks rubbing their antlers on your cherry trees, then you should also considering fencing in your trees. For example, you can wrap it in chicken wire (just be sure to periodically loosen or replace it with a larger piece as the tree grows so that it isn’t strangled by the wire).
If you’re looking for ways to deter deer from your garden, you’re in luck. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to keep a herd of hungry deer from eating your cherry trees (and other plants).
12 Ways To Keep Deers Away From Cherry Trees
The most effective measures to keep deer away from cherry trees involve repellents, dogs, motion-detected lights and sprinklers, and especially fences. Some of these will be more effective with certain deer than others since, like people, deer have differing degrees of skittishness or boldness.
Let’s get into more details.
1. Spray-On Deer Repellents
While they are effective, deer repellents work best if you rotate between a few different kinds every few months to keep the deer from getting used to the smells. You’ll also need to reapply after it rains or every ninety days, whichever comes first.
Repellents like this Havahart’s Critter Ridder or Deer Off use stinky ingredients like rotten eggs to drive deer away, and spicy cayenne to abandon your tree as a food source. Another repellent, Plantskydd, uses dried blood to trigger a fear response in deer and cause them to scram and performed very well in a USDA Forest Service study of deer repellents.
Keep in mind that if it’s smelly enough to repel deer, it’s also smelly enough to repel you and any potential guests, too. If your cherry tree is close to your house or in a part of your garden that you frequent, it might not be the best option.
2. Irish Springs Soap
An oldie but, according to many homestead channels on YouTube (including this one guy with a pet skunk), Irish Springs Soap works. This method works best if you put a bar of soap in every individual tree. You can hang them in an old nylon stocking, a suet bird feeder, or by drilling a hole through the center and threading it on twine.
Similar to the soap-bar method, you can hang ammonium-soaked rags from your tree to repel deer with a strong scent. You’ll need to renew them after it rains, but you can combine this with one or more of the solutions on this list for better effectiveness.
4. Motion-Activated Sprinklers
If you aren’t able to don’t want to put up a fence and don’t quite trust soap or repellents, another good option is a motion-activated sprinkler. Deer are prey animals and they know it, so a strong (but harmless) splash of water when they least expect will startle them to run away and leave your cherry tree alone.
If you’re interested in a motion-activated sprinkler, you can try the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer, which works both day and night, and runs on AA batteries. There are also some which are solar-powered.
Just don’t forget to deactivate it when you want to approach your cherry tree!
5. Motion-Activated Lights
Along the same line, a motion-activated floodlight near your cherry tree will startle deer and increase their sense of danger. The Mr. Beams MB360XT spotlight is wireless and battery-powered, which means you can mount it close to or even on the tree itself.
6. Monofilament Fishing Line
Yes, fishing line! Monofilament is really hard for deer to see, and stringing a perimeter of fishing line around your cherry tree will deter deer by confusing them.
Drive some stakes or posts in a square shape around the cherry tree, and string the fishing line around it about two to three feet off the ground. The deer will walk right into it but they won’t be able to see it, which will unnerve them and discourage them from getting any closer to the tree.
7. Wind Chime
Deer are startled by unexpected sounds, so hanging a wind chime in the boughs of your tree can make them think twice about approaching it. This works best when combined with another method on this list like sprinklers or scent repellents.
8. Cut Down Tall Grasses Near Your Tree
Deer like to move through cover, and they also enjoy bedding down in tall grass. If your cherry tree has any areas like this nearby, mowing down the grass will remove the bedding area and make deer feel more exposed.
Similarly, look around your property and try to find the access points or trails that deer use to come into your yard. Walking along these will lay down your scent, which the deer won’t like, or you could even try blocking them off with something like wooden pallets, which deer are very reluctant to climb over.
9. Plant a Hedge
If the deer can’t see it, they won’t eat it. Planting a boxwood hedge or evergreen screen around your cherry tree will hide it from passing deer, so they won’t incorporate it into their mental “best drive-thru in town” map.
10. Let the Dogs Out
The sight, sound, and smell of a dog is a huge deterrent to deer. Bring your dog out to your cherry tree often, or let it roam around it freely on its own if possible, so that deer associate your tree with the presence of a potential predator.
11. Harvest Quickly
By harvesting your cherries as soon as they ripen, you remove the main object the deer are after. This also keeps cherries from over-ripening, falling to the ground below, and rotting there to draw deer in with their scent.
12. Build a Fence
Creating an enclosure around your cherry tree is hands down the most effective way to protect it from deer. Although deer can jump fences up to twelve feet, they don’t like entering small spaces, so an eight-foot fenced enclosure around an individual tree will go unexplored.
There are a few different options for fence materials to keep out deer. Plastic netting is a lightweight and cost-effective option, and you can buy a complete kit at Deerbusters.com.
But plastic, however convenient, is not the most eco-friendly option nor the most durable over time. Your best bet to protect your cherry tree long-term with the least amount of hassle is to fence it off with wire mesh panels.
2 x 4 inch welded wire panels are easy to work with using a pair of ordinary pliers, weather and corrosion-resistant, and are pretty cost-effective. They hold their shape better than chicken wire or mesh, and they’ll last a long time.
While the thumbnail below might seem a bit aggressive, Death by Bunjie is a home orchardist that uses simple wooden stakes and zip ties to support and secure his wire panel fences, creating an eight-foot-diameter exclusion zone around each of his fruit trees. Feel free to give it a watch and find out more about how he protects his fruit trees!
Bonus tip: oftentimes, sprinkling coffee grounds around your cherry trees is a natural way that can help repel deer. You can even use them as a fertilizer for your cherry trees!
If you find that your cherry tree suffered too much damage from the deer, or it has some other growing issue, make sure to check out my recent post: 3 Quick Steps To Revive a Dying Cherry Tree.