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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - November 21, 2009

From: Roswell, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Treating cuts in tree trunks
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have two young trees that deer made bad cuts in the trunks. What can we put on cuts to keep bugs and disease from getting in them.? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Treating cuts and wounds in trees by applying wound dressing is a controversial subject. We in Texas with a high incidence of oak wilt disease, a fungal (Ceratocystis fagacearum) disease carried by nitidulid beetles, are urged to paint all wounds on oak trees to prevent infection; however, there are many horticulturists (e.g., Chalker-Scott from Washington State University and the Master Gardeners Program from Penn State Cooperative Extension) who say that painting wounds may be more harmful than helpful by trapping moisture and encouraging rot and fungal growth. Your own University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service recommends NOT using wound paint after tree pruning since it is likely to disrupt the tree's natural ability to compartmentalize the wound area and seal it off.  They recommend, instead, that you minimize mechanical damage to the tree.  With that in mind, Mr. Smarty Plants suggests that you put up a physical barrier to protect your tree trunks from deer antler damage.  Here are some commercial products that will do the job and also suggestions for making your own.

Sentree Treeguard

Wraparound plastic tree guards

Corrugated plastic tree guards

Miracle Tubes

You can also make your own using heavy duty plastic mesh or metal wire (chicken wire or hardware cloth) from the hardware store. You will need to check frequently to be sure the guard hasn't become tight around the tree as the trunk expands. Also, you should be sure the guards offer plenty of ventilation so that moisture doesn't build up between the guard and the trunk or so that the guard doesn't provide a area for insects to collect.  Here is an article from University of New Hampshire, "Tree Guards for Tree and Shrub Protection" with instructions for making tree guards.  Their guards are geared towards smaller animal (rodents and rabbits) damage, but the height of the guard could be increased for deer. 

Another option is to build a small diameter (2-3 feet) fence around each tree using metal fence stakes and wire mesh. How practical this option is probably depends on how many trees you need to protect.

 

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