Life can be tough for young trees. They have to overcome the shock of being wrenched from the comfort of a pot or being dug from one piece of land and thrust into another.
While their roots are still hurting and their feeding lines are re-establishing a link with the soil, they may be exposed to potentially deathly damage caused by wild and grazing animals, bored youths, harsh winds, herbicide splash, salt spray and run-off from winter roads and even the occasional wayward mower or brushcutter. In many locations, depending on the species and size, it may not be worth planting a tree unless it can be given protection.
The best protection depends on the location and the threats as recognised by a site analysis. There is a wide choice of guards and shelters for use on single trees, small planting projects, roadside verges, urban schemes, rural sites and for where trees are spaced far apart, such as in avenues.
Fencing may also be appropriate in some locations, but remember that a square site is the most economic - erecting a fence around a long, thin site will dramatically increase the cost of protection per tree.
The length of time for which the tree requires protection will depend on the nature of the threat and the species of tree. Some plastic guards and shelters are light-responsive and disintegrate after a few years. Others may require collection, disposal or recycling. Protection from deer and livestock is likely to be a long-term requirement, so in pastures and parkland it is common to use timber guards.
Do not forget to consider the rate of tree growth when selecting a guard or shelter. Metal or plastic guards primarily provide protection from mammal damage and have little effect on the environment around the growing tree.
Tree shelters, on the other hand, provide the young plant with a greenhouse-like microclimate that can accelerate growth and improve survival rates. A cane or stake plus a fixing device will normally be needed to hold the shelter in place.
WHAT SIZE OF TREE SHELTER?
Animals Shelter size
Roe deer 1.2m
Red or fallow deer 1.8m