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Fall care of trees and shrubs

Fall is here, and that means winter is just around the corner. Do you remember all the winter damage to the trees and shrubs last winter? It was caused by ice, snow, wind and various critters who spent the winter in our gardens and yards.  Although we cannot control weather-caused damage, we can try to prevent critter damage. Now is the time to try to prepare our trees and shrubs for winter. 

Keeping rabbits out

Almost all trees and shrubs can be damaged when there are large numbers of rabbits and food is scarce to find.  Rabbits will eat the tissue between the bark and wood on small trees. If they eat all the way around the tree, the tree is girdled. This disrupts the flow of food in the tree and the tree eventually dies. Rabbits chew off branches and girdle large stems on shrubs.  

You can prevent this from happening by placing chicken wire or hardware cloth around the trees and shrubs. If you are placing a fence around the tree it should be 24 to 36 inches tall, so they cannot reach over. There were numerous issues with fencing last year due to the deep snow drifts. The fence should be staked to the ground so the rabbits cannot get underneath it as well. 

Tree guards can be placed around the trunks of small trees. Unfortunately, if the snow banks are deep enough there can still be damage due to rabbits climbing the snow banks. 

Preventing deer damage

Deer cause extensive damage when food is scarce. They feed on arborvitae and other evergreens. You can use wire cylinders or wraps to place around your evergreens to help prevent damage. They should be at least 6 feet tall and placed early in the fall for the most preventative measures. This will be effective in preventing damage from antler rubbing.  

Fencing can also be effective in preventing deer damage.  The fencing should be 8 feet tall. If an entire area is to be protected, a shorter fence should be set inside the taller one. Deer usually won’t jump into small enclosures.  

There are repellants to spray on trees as well to deter deer. You will need to reapply these, and they can be sensitive to temperatures.  Be sure to read the label and follow all instructions when using repellents. 

Protecting from mice and voles

Mice and voles cause damage by eating the crowns of perennials and chewing bark on trees and shrubs.  Damage can be prevented by use of hard cloth buried 2 to 3 inches in the soil.  Keep mulch 6 inches away from the tree trucks. Remove tall weeds close to the garden to reduce habitat and food. 

We don’t know how cold and snowy this winter will be.  We only know that it is coming, whether our gardens are ready or not. Hope you take the time to see what you can do in your yard to protect it from winter damage. 

Author: Mary Stoel, Master Gardener

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