I’m pretty excited about this. As I get older, I find that the things that excite me are not…. normal. Natural, organic deer repellent that actually works? Yep, gives me butterflies.
I don’t want a tropical vacation, I want sheep. And please don’t buy me flowers, I want heirloom beans and tomato seeds instead. No manicures or fancy dinners for this gal, give me new rubber boots and natural, organic deer repellent!
Last month we took an organic orcharding class the next town over, and we gained so much knowledge! It was great learning from someone in our area who is already doing the types of things we want to do- thinking about the same pests we need to think about, and being prepared for the apple diseases common in our area.
There was one gold nugget of information that I was particularly excited about- and that was how they keep deer away from their thousands of apple trees (especially the young ones!). They showed us an all natural, better-than-organic product that has been wildly successful for them. They said that it is by far the best thing they’ve ever found for preventing deer from eating apple trees, and everyone they’ve shared this product with has raved about it and fallen in love.
And, these were salt-of-the-earth small town naturally-minded apple farmers- and I believed them! Of course I had to try it!
This was just the information I needed. We are investing in a lot of antique and rare variety fruit trees this spring, and I have been fretting over how I would keep the deer away from eating and killing them, short of building a fortress around each tree. Because deer, they love apple trees- especially small, new, vulnerable, expensive apple trees.
The orchard care-taker who was teaching the class said he will literally watch the deer come in and walk up to the apple trees, get close to the repellent, look offended, and then turn right around. Depending on the outdoor conditions and how old your repellent is, he said once in a while they will nibble just a tiny bit on some of the lower outer branches, but nothing like they would without the repellant.
What is it and how does it work?
The product is Deer and Rabbit Repellent by Cedar Creek Organics. <– Find it here!
Understanding how it works will help you be able to use it effectively. The Cedar Creek website could use a little help, and I couldn’t easily find some of the practical use tips that I gleaned from the orchard class- so I am sharing those with you today!
Normal use instructions come with the packaging, so no worries there.
I am not sure if the product is actually certified organic, but it is made from reasonable ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate, bone meal, blood meal and essential oils). Bonus: it isn’t touching the tree, the fruit, or even the soil it is growing in. I love that it isn’t something you have to spray on the ground or surrounding plants (because EVERYTHING you use, whether organic or otherwise, always has SOME affect on the delicate structure of the ecosystem- nothing is without consequence).
This is extremely low consequence, if you ask me.
Deer & Rabbit Repellent by Cedar Creek Organics is a coarse brown powder and it comes with cloth bags for hanging in your trees or around your garden.
To use, you simply scoop the recommended amount of powder into a fabric bag, cinch it closed and hang it at the appropriate level for what you are trying to repel. For deer, place one bag on each tree at about three to four feet off the ground. If using as a “fence,” place bags six feet apart and three to four feet off the ground.
Wait for rain and sun! I think this might be an important step that some people don’t know. Unlike most harsh chemical products that repel deer and need reapplying after it rains, Cedar Creek Organics Deer and Rabbit Repellent actually works better being out in the elements. At the orcharding class, they described it as “activating the rot.” In fact they said that if you use it in the fall, it needs to be put outside while it is still warm and wet enough to turn on the smell. So, if it never gets wet, it won’t smell, and therefore won’t repel deer.
The great part about this is that the product doesn’t smell bad when you are working with it dry. I thought it smelled mildly of Christmas-spiced cat food, which I only detected while filling the bags. Once the bags were on the trees there was no scent lingering in the air or anything.
One application will last six months! (That’s a long time in the world of deer repellants!)
By the way, this product works on anything you want to keep deer out of. It will repel deer from devouring your Hosta plants and flowers, it will keep them out of the garden, and repel them from other fruit trees as well.
How did it work for us?
So far- great! About three weeks ago I place a bag full of the powder on each of our 10 fruit trees (apple, cherry, and plum). I have been watching them closely for deer damage weekly as they have budded out and now have small leaves. At the time of posting this, there was one branch nibbled on one tree. This is wonderful! Last spring, just as the trees started to leaf-out, the deer decimated them! This stuff really seems to be keeping the deer away.
**Update: It’s been one full year and the product is still working wonderfully! All of our trees- apple, pear, plum, cherry, and peach have deer repellent in them. We used the cloth bags that came with the product from spring until fall- at which time they were starting to fall apart. We took the advice of the orchard we visited and switched to using tin cans- which are wonderful! We hung the tin cans in fall when we refilled our deer repellent. They are so quick and easy to refill!
We cut two holes in the top of the can to attach wire for hanging. Karl rigged up a “quick release” handle system by making curved handles out of old wire hangers, which are attached to smaller wire that is attached to the can and not secured very well. They hang in the tree no problem, but if something big comes along and pulls on the can, the smaller wire will release instead of the tree branch being ripped off.
We also drilled two drainage holes in each can, about 1.5 to 2 inches up from the bottom of the can with an approximately 1/8-inch drill bit (Karl couldn’t remember the exact size, but knows they were pretty small holes). Seems to be working perfectly! Start saving those cans!**
Other important information:
One thing to note: it may attract carnivores. Well, not attract like they will flock to it in droves, but if you have bear or raccoons around, they might be inclined to check it out. To help with this, the orchardist recommended not using the fabric bags, but using empty soup cans instead. The cans are harder for raccoons to steal, plus easier to fill every season if you’re working with a LOT of trees.
To prevent potential predators from hurting your trees, they recommended hanging the bags or cans with a wire, but not a super tight one, so if a bear does come along and try to take it, they won’t destroy the tree branch in order to get the repellent off. So… tight enough that a raccoon can’t get it off, but loose enough so that if a bear tries, it will break away without ripping the branch off with it. They said that the bears really don’t want to eat it, so after knocking a few down they learn that it isn’t food and will move along. I know this seems like an odd detail, but it is personal experience from a seasoned orchard expert that can make all the difference!
The orchard we were at had over 2000 apple trees, and they had a tin can with this deer repellant hanging in every single tree there! They’ve used it for years with great success.
I hope this information saves your precious trees, and keeps those pesky deer from eating your favorite plants and fruit trees.
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