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I bought a house in Hudson, NY in November. The previous owners had screened it from the trailer park next-door with a row of Arborvitae. They're maybe twelve feet tall, and they'd already suffered some deer damage the previous year. This winter, 2014-15, the deer simply turned the whole row into a salad bar. I tried to fence, but they just laughed at my efforts.

The damage is pretty bad. Should I prune back to the growth line, if I can figure out where that is? Could I just let the trees keep growing and plant something more deer resistant at the base? Suggestions?

I'm 61 and haven't lived in the house since I was 18, so I'm really on new territory here. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

  • Is there room between the property line and the arborvitae to put a temporary fence up in the winter? – kevinsky Apr 20 '15 at 11:02
  • There is a fence behind the trees, and I put up a temporary one this winter, but apparently it was not very effective! – Judyvla Apr 20 '15 at 12:37
  • Hi @Judyvla! It looks like the system has created a couple of user accounts for you. If you’d like to merge them (there are some advantages to doing so), the instructions are here. Welcome to the site! – Niall C. Apr 20 '15 at 15:47
  • Hmmm, standard solution is a twelve foot tall fence. I don't think that's going to work for you. – kevinsky Apr 20 '15 at 16:26
  • @kevinsky here, and 8' fence or double 4' work well on residential properties... but yeah, aesthetically defeat the purpose of ornamental plantings, unless you can do the whole outside perimeter. – J. Musser May 10 '15 at 1:01
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You can cut Arborvitae back to a growing green shoot. Any further, and the foliage will not grow back. Arborvitae should be pruned back in early spring, not late fall.

One thing that might discourage the deer-and I have seen this work if heavy deer country-is to lay wrinkled chicken wire flat on the ground around the area you are trying to protect. The deer hate putting their feet on the unsteady ground. You need to create a complete moat around your plants.

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