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Apple Tree Food Plots
Photo by Tracy Breen

Apple Tree Plots Make Deer Season Sweeter

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a properly planted and well-cared-for apple tree will attract deer to your property.

By Tracy Breen

Apples may not be the stuff of your typical food plot, but when planted properly and tended to they sweeten any deer hunting honey hole.

According to Charles Robinson, an avid deer hunter and owner of Robinson Landscaping and Nursery in northern Michigan, an apple tree plot (just like any other food plot) needs tender loving care to reach maturity.

“I think many people plant a few fruit trees and think they are good to go,” Robinson said. “They come back several months later and discover a dead tree. Others care for a tree for a few weeks or months after planting it and forget about it. Apple trees will reach maturity faster and produce a better crop if they are consistently cared for.”

Here’s advice from Robinson to make sure your apple tree investment pays sweet dividends.

Dig a hole

When it is time to plant, dig a large hole — about twice as large and deep as the root ball. Wet the soil down to the point where it is mud.

“The entire root ball must be in contact with soil. Air pockets around the root ball can cause the tree to grow slowly or may even kill the tree,” Robinson explained. “I make sure that the soil I am packing into the hole around the root ball is wet because a lot of muddy soil can be packed into a hole thus eliminating the air pockets.”

Feeding Trees

After planting your trees, water them regularly. “Trees that receive regular water and sunlight will mature and produce fruit faster than trees that are planted and left to fend for themselves,” Robinson said. “If you want a small group of trees to start bearing fruit quickly, you need to baby them. By eliminating weeds, regularly watering the trees and providing lime and fertilizer, you can cut in half the time it takes for a small orchard to start producing fruit.”

According to Robinson, trees that are planted and left alone may not produce lots of fruit for 15 to 20 years, but trees that are babied may produce fruit in as few as six to 10 years.

Consider spraying the trees with herbicide to help avoid bug problems or diseases. However, planting them in direct sunlight and taking care of them will minimize health issues.

Apple Defense

When the trees are young, they’ll need protection from deer and other wildlife. “A young tree will need a cage or shelter of some kind around it so the deer can’t browse all of the leaves and limbs off the tree.” Robinson explained. “In the winter and early spring, deer will destroy a young tree quickly because there isn’t much food around. A deer’s teeth can scrape the branches, which will set the tree back. Every time the tree is set back, it will take longer to produce fruit, because the tree must heal before it can put its energy into fruit production.