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Rodent-proof trees in time for winter.

COLUMN: Your gardening answers

It is time to consider the damage that tree bark eaters can do to your trees this winter. There is no shortage of mice, voles and other rodents that love to feed on the tender wood of thin barked plants such as fruit trees, red maples and magnolias, as well as other newly planted trees.

How can we minimize the potential damage caused by these pests and do it in a safe, sensible manner? Fearful of hawks, owls, foxes and other predators, rodents feed undercover. The greatest damage done to tree trunks is where the grass and weeds are tall, close to the tree. In addition, mulch piled up around the base of the tree provides cover as well as keeps the trunk bark constantly moist. Wet trunk bark is susceptible to fungal rot.

To provide a measure of protection, you need to cut down and remove all tall herbage in a circle, at least two feet wide, all around each tree. An old but still good idea is to develop a sand-pan at the base of the tree. This is done by excavating the soil about four inches deep and replacing the soil with sand. The sand suppresses the growth of weeds and is less able to hold tunnels and burrows.

All mulch, except the aforementioned sand, is removed from contact with the base of the tree. All mulching should take the form of a doughnut with a hole in the center. Remove all fallen fruit, as it attracts yellow jackets. Rake up fallen leaves to prevent the overwintering of pests and diseases. Rodent-proof your trees.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 22, 2009
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