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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
Deer damage on evergreens
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Deer Damage to Evergreens

Last week I wrote about the browning that is occurring on evergreens this spring, but we also have some other problems that are being noticed on evergreens throughout the landscape.

The first is caused by those pesky deer.Deer can feed on and damage terminal and side branches of small trees and shrubs and they've sure done plenty of this on evergreens this winter. You can see in the first picture how deer have eaten off almost all the foliage that they can reach on this evergreen. Evergreens are usually not deer's first choice of meal, but with the constant snow cover we've had, that may have just been the only available food for these deer.

Repellents could have been used throughout the winter to prevent feeding, as long as reapplied frequently.But remember, if deer are starving, there is little that will prevent feeding.High fencing can be also used to exclude deer.

So what's the prognosis for these trees? Iowa State notes that the key to the condition of damaged evergreens is the presence of growing points or buds on the injured branches. Branches that have had all their buds devoured by hungry animals will not produce new growth this spring. As a result, some small evergreens may have been completely destroyed. Larger evergreens may have permanently lost their lower branches. Since buds on arborvitae and junipers are difficult to see, individuals may want to wait until spring before taking any action. Branches that don't produce new growth by mid-June have been destroyed and can be removed.

The other problem noticed on evergreens is damage due to the weight of snow on evergreen trees and shrubs. The heavy weight of our snow load this year has caused some branches to break and has created some misshapen plants as a result. This could have been avoided by brushing off snow throughout the season to lighten the load.

Once a branch is broken, the damage is done unfortunately. Prune out any damaged branches and keep the plant healthy and vigorous this year to help the plant fill in the damaged area.

If you suspect other problems with your evergreens, our Master Gardner Hotlines will be starting this spring in each of our local Extension offices. They are a great resource to help you identify and solve your plant problems. Contact your local Extension office through our webpage: You can also post questions on Miller's Facebook page:

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