TREE TALK COLUMN: Save trees with repellent

Farm Forum

With the heavy snow cover we are seeing right now, damage from rabbits and deer is showing up on all kinds of plants and trees, especially evergreen trees.

The limited amount of available grass and other types of vegetation that rabbits and deer normally live off of during the winter months are forcing them to eat less desirable plants, which tend to be landscape plants in our yards or shelterbelts.

These critters are more likely to encroach into more populated areas in desperate search of food. Rabbits will eat not only the leaves or needles off evergreen plants, they will eat the tender bark of branches and small diameter trunks. This girdling can kill the branch or entire plant depending on the location of the damage and if the damage encompasses the circumference of the stem. This time of year, deer can also cause severe damage, but mostly from eating needles off spruce and pine trees.

Using a repellent is an excellent way to protect against severe plant damage, especially on a small scale such as your backyard or landscape areas. I would suggest using a product that contains putrescent egg solids, which has been shown to be the most reliable. It can be bought as a concentrate or ready to use. Depending on the weather conditions, it can be sprayed once every few weeks, but always follow the label instructions.

I would recommend putting on some snowshoes and heading out to look at your plant material, and if you are seeing signs of rabbit or deer damage, try applying a repellent to prevent continued damage.

Aaron Kiesz is the city forester for the city of Aberdeen, Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. For additional information or questions, contact him at or 605-626-7015.