What to do if fruit seedlings have bitten mice or hares?
Protection against rodents from shrubs and trees is not accidentally considered one of the most important points in preparing the garden for winter. It is very difficult to overcome the consequences of mice and hares enjoying the bark of plants. But damage by rodents and the trunk, and branches, and roots - not always a sentence. If the warning measures did not work or were forgotten, the affected plants can still be saved, although they will have to fight for their health. From a simple garden var to special vaccination methods, there are many options for the rehabilitation of bushes and trees after an invasion of rodents.
Which plants are most likely to suffer from rodents?
The orchard and favorite berry bushes are not the only plants that suffer from winter activity of rodents. But it is they who most often become the object of attention of mice, hares and other loving ones, feasting on the bark of plants of garden guests.
Apricots and apple trees have always been special favorites of rodents, but even simple berries are often threatened in harsh winters. It is believed that hares with their strong paws, giving the opportunity to reach branches, cause special harm to the fruit garden. But both mice and rats are no less dangerous. They act more stealthily, under the snow, approaching the roots and base of the trunk, literally gnawing trees and bushes. The activity of all rodents increases especially when other sources of food are depleted - in late winter and early spring.
No matter how thorough the protection of the garden from rodents is, it does not always cope with visitors looking for any available source of food. Permanent inspections and strengthening of shelters may also not be enough.
If rodents have nibbled fruit trees and other plants, the first thing to do is not to panic and not take "extreme" measures. Before disposing of a seedling, it is worthwhile to assess the damage, carefully weigh the chances of success and, if the defeat is not complete, try to save the plant.
We determine the degree of damage and risks
To find the optimal recovery strategy for damaged fruit trees and other seedlings affected by rodents, it is worth determining the degree of damage to the plant. Rodents can:
- partially nibble the bark on the trunk;
- nibble the bark on the trunk around the circumference (ring);
- feast on skeletal and small twigs;
- harm the roots (most often damage occurs only in the spring, when the trees fall over and are easily pulled out);
- gnaw through the tissue of the root neck.
All types of damage, even small ones, put trees at risk of frostbite, infection, disrupt sap flow and cause drying, not to mention a decrease in resistance and yield.
Two factors affect the chances and timing of plant rescue:
- the state of cambium (has the cambium been damaged and has the drying process begun?);
- lesion area.
It’s worth saving only trees in which at least part of the bark is not nibbled (at least 20% of the bark and roots should remain). The smaller the area of damage, the higher the likelihood that the seedling will survive and recover in years. A serious risk of plant death is more than 50% of the bark or roots is damaged or any ring lesion.
How and when to save damaged plants?
How quickly measures will be taken to protect trees from frost and drying out most often determine the chances of success. As soon as the wounds are noticed, it is necessary to wrap all the nibbled trunks and branches with film and protect them with agrofibre or other insulating materials so that frost damage is not added to the bark damage. As early as possible in the spring, as soon as the snow melts and before the buds spill and growth begins, you must immediately begin the basic methods of struggle.
All measures for plants affected by rodents are aimed at compensating for damage and protecting plants - the healing of bark and cambium wounds. And there are not so many options because of the specifics of the damage.
The best methods for healing nibbled seedlings include:
- medical dressings;
- "Transplant" of the cortex;
- vaccination "bridge";
- cardinal cropping.
Bridge grafting and cardinal trimming are used for cambia damage and ring nibbling, and the first two methods for minor damage.
Dressings are the best option for small wounds
This is a kind of artificial “defense” until the growth of a new bark, which is left on the tree until the wounds heal. Creating a medical dressing for fruit trees consists of only four procedures:
- treatment of wounds with growth stimulants and fungicides (systemic drugs, decoction of linden bark (200 g per 1 liter of water), copper sulfate solution of 3% concentration, etc.);
- full coverage of the damage surface, areas without bark and passages with garden varieties, wound healing pastes or professional putties for trees; they have protective, disinfecting and healing properties and create a reliable coating that does not crack;
- tying trunks and branches with paper, garden bandage, gauze or natural cotton (linen) fabric; the material should have good breathable properties and the prospect of decomposing over time;
- a protective coating of tissue dressings with a film (to protect wounds from water and bacteria) or a second layer of "putty".
Instead of garden plaster and putty, you can use the usual clay mash. The ideal proportion is 4 parts of manure to 6 parts of clay, mixed to a thick pasty consistency. But pure clay is also suitable, which is applied in a layer up to 3 cm thick under and above the fabric.
Treatment dressings are left until next year. When using clay chatters, it is washed off.
Healing a healthy bark on a bare, nibbled trunk is a complex and not always justified way. You can only take root of your own tree bark, taken from healthy branches. The size of the patch should exceed the size of the damage by 4-5 cm.
The bark is applied to a stripped, flattened area of exposed tissue, wrapped with electrical tape. When protecting the tree from droughts and regular feeding by the end of the season, the bark can take root in a new place. But this method greatly affects the growth and endurance of plants and it is more often used on decorative rather than fruit seedlings.
Restoring tree nutrition thanks to the scion allows over time to obtain new “nutrition channels” and compensate for cambium damage.
For vaccination, annual shoots, shoots, healthy branches with a diameter of about 0.5 to 1 cm (both from damaged and from other trees) are used. Cuttings are cut with a length equal to the length of the wound on the trunk with an addition of 10 cm. For plants with thin trunks (up to 3 cm), 2-3 branches are used, for trees with powerful trunks - from 5 cuttings.
After stripping the edges of the wound and treatment with fungicides (for example, a one percent solution of copper sulfate), a vaccination is performed above and below the wound. Into the t-shaped incisions insert the edges of the scion that are cut at an acute angle, reliably fixing the cuttings in any way possible. The usual gardening treatment and additional reinforcement with a film help accelerate the engraftment.
Such a vaccination allows you to create a kind of bridges - conductors connecting the areas with intact cambium bypassing the annular wound, new channels of plant nutrition. Over the years, the shoots grow together and form a kind of thickened knot on the trunk.
On trees older than 5 years with a strong and healthy root system, the option of pruning for reverse growth allows you to save plants even with severe damage. Usually this option is used on apple trees.
Before the buds begin to spill, the trees are cut down over the lowest bud, immediately treating the stump with garden varieties to stop growth. The development of new shoots from strong roots and sleeping buds allows the plant to recover around the old stump.
Restoring affected roots
If mice and rats gnawed roots on young plants up to 5 years old, there is only one salvation strategy. This is a careful treatment of wounds and slow recovery with balancing of the roots and crown, installation of supports and partial replacement of the substrate with special earth mixtures.
On plants with united roots (if not more than 80% of the roots are damaged), a full root treatment procedure is carried out in spring:
- they dig out and dig out the soil, exposing the rhizome;
- all wounds, gnawed and gnawed areas are treated with a solution of fungicide, a growth stimulator and thoroughly treated with ash;
- a reliable support is installed for the plant, which will serve as additional support for several years;
- wood ash (2.5-3 l) and superphosphate (250-300 g) are added to the soil, the plant is filled up and the soil is carefully tamped, carefully filling the space between the roots;
- The crown is cut off, trying to leave as many branches as there are intact roots (if 80% of the root system is damaged, 80% of the branches are cut, etc.). The root system and the crown must be balanced; leave only strong, healthy skeletal shoots;
- several seasons for the winter, the fruit tree protects against rodents and frost more carefully.
Trees with damaged roots are restored slowly, first increasing the rhizome, and then the crown.