Many of my first food plots were planted in open areas where deer, and especially mature bucks, were reluctant to venture during daylight hours. I dealt with this issue by planting rows of evergreen trees around the edges of these plots to offer a sense of security to feeding game.
I start with at least two or three rows of evergreens spaced 10-12 feet apart with the same space between rows. Make sure the area to be planted has been mowed to the ground and any grasses in the rows should be killed with an herbicide. The root system on grasses provides serious competition to young trees, and leaving the grass will result in much slower growth and poorer survival with your seedlings. I’ve found that an ATV equipped with a small sprayer containing Roundup is well suited for wiping out grass competition. If this is done in the spring right before planting, you should also mix in a pre-emergent herbicide such as Oust to cut down on later weed competition. A number of other crop herbicides will also work with no ill effects to your trees. Just be careful not to exceed the recommended application rates.
During the second and third years, I recommend a spring application of Oust to cut down on weed competition. Oust can be applied right over the top of dormant trees during early spring. As always, follow label directions. After this point, your seedlings should be established well enough that they’ll be able to compete with weeds and eventually out-grow them.
The tree species I prefer for these applications are red cedar, white pine and Norway spruce, but other species might be better suited to your area. My favorite species is red cedar because it’s very drought tolerant, grows well in poor and rocky soil and is native to my home area. White pines are also good because they grow quickly after they’ve gotten established. They’re much more susceptible to deer damage than red cedar, however. Today, I often mix these two species on many of my plantings. Norway spruce are also suitable, but they’re slower to establish and slower growing than the other species mentioned. Norway spruce do offer a little denser structure and are more “deer tolerant” than white pines.