Micro Manager: Do-It-Yourself Tree Shelters

It took all of 15 minutes to load up my truck with about 300 trees and shrubs following a visit to my local conservation district's annual tree sale.

I had no idea that it'd take me about 5 days to get them all in the ground. But they're all planted now. And by a stroke of sheer luck, the following two weeks included plenty of rain and cooler temperatures. The end result? I have a bunch of stuff growing. In fact, while I was expecting to lose about 20 percent - perhaps more - of the seedlings, I have found just three dead specimens since planting. The remaining trees and shrubs not only look like they'll survive but a high percentage of them have actually put on noticeable growth and have blossomed out nicely already.

They likely won't stay that way for long, however, unless I protect the tender shoots from the sharp teeth of opportunistic whitetails, rabbits and other chewing critters. If you've ever planted any trees or shrubs, you likely know that browsing deer can nip them in the bud quickly. Literally.

I knew going into this project that I'd need to find a way to protect those young plants while they're getting started. What I wasn't expecting was the price tag on commercial tree and shrub shelters. The conservation district was offering enclosures for $4 a pop. A Google search found plenty of options - most costing about $3 each before shipping.

With a budget of $1,500 for an entire season's worth of work, that was math that simply didn't work. So I decided to devise my own shelters and they seem to be working out well. The above video outlines the process. All told, I spent about $120 for 300 shelters - or about 40 cents each. Here's a materials list to get you started:

STAKES: I had mine cut from a pile of scrap lumber by a local sawmill. Because my buddies operate the mill, they didn't cost me anything. But you should be able to convince a local sawyer to spend an hour cutting stakes for about $100 or so. That'll give you a big pile of stakes to work with.

NETTING: I got my netting from Tractor Supply Company. It's a green plastic mesh that comes in a roll 5 feet tall and 100 feet long. I cut the net in half to give me 200 feet of netting about 30 inches high. For 300 trees and shrubs, I ended up needing two rolls. Each roll cost $29.99.

ZIP TIES: For each shelter I used four 6-inch cable ties. They came in packs of 100 for about $5/pack.

The Tab

The goal of The Micro Manager is to see if we really can turn 17 acres of ho-hum ground into great deer hunting land. But we're also going to try and show that such things can be done on a tight budget. Thus we've set a limit of $1,500 for this year's habitat work expenditures. Each week, we'll keep a running tally at the end of each entry. Here's the current tab thus far:

Chainsaw gas and oil: $21
ATV fuel: $6
Trees/shrubs: $312.50
Drain spade: $16
Screening Cover Seed: $110
Tree shelter materials: 120

TOTAL: $585.50
BUDGET REMAINING: $914.50