Protect Young Trees and Shrubs From Voles, Rabbits And Other Critters

Young deciduous azalea protected by hardware cloth

Rabbits, chipmunks, and voles (field mice) need a home for the winter. They often choose to nestle up near newly planted trees and shrubs and gnaw  on their sweet sapwood, girdling the trunk and essentially killing the tree. Fruit-bearing plants often damaged by critters over their first 1-2 winters include: apple, pear, peach, redbud, blueberry, and cane fruits. Young landscape plants such as crabapple, serviceberry, rose, and azalea may also be damaged. Critters may also nibble off the flower buds of spring blooming shrubs.

Deter rabbits by loosely wrapping chicken wire around desirable plants. Coil several strands so critters can’t nibble through the wire. Prior to the start of winter, clear away all weedy brush and debris where they may nest or hide. Pull away all mulch from young newly planted (1-2 year old planted) fruit trees.

The fencing or mechanical barrier should stand 24 to 36 inches high to deter rabbits from climbing over after a heavy snow. Bury the bottom 2-3 inches below the ground to firmly anchor fencing or other mechanical barrier to prevent rabbits from crawling under. Tree wraps made from kraft paper or spiral tree guards can protect tree trunks from critter feeding and also to insulate cold sensitive species against sunscald and freeze damage. Tree guards and wraps should be removed in the early days of spring.

Traps and repellents are other management tools. Repellents should be applied multiple times over the fall – winter period.

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