April 21, 2011 at 9:08 a.m.

Those critters in the orchards do damage

Those critters in the orchards do damage
Those critters in the orchards do damage

Due to the heavy snow and cold temperatures pruning of fruit trees was much delayed. As the snow depth receded many of us were surprised to find out how much damage mice have done to young unprotected fruit trees.

I have no one to blame but myself because I stopped mowing my orchard last year due to the price of gas. The heavy rains last summer produced a thick crop of hay that was bent down by the heavy snow. This made runs for mice that supplied them with plenty to eat all winter.

My younger apple trees outgrew the plastic guards and I didn't replace them with metal screens, and had no trouble, until this year.

Mice had partially or completely girdled the trees just below the snow line. Girdling means that the bark has been eaten around the base of the tree. This cuts off the flow of nutrients to the rest of the tree much as a blood clot would do in a vein.

I called a gardener who has done some tree grafting and he suggested I go to the Internet and Google bridge-grafting. He also suggested that I take shoots from the tree to be grafted, put them in newspaper, and into a plastic bag unsealed. A surprising tip was to put them into the refrigerator until it warmed up and I was ready to graft, but not in the same refrigerator where there are apples or the gases would harm the bark to be grafted.

I learned that bark for grafting must be cut while the tree is dormant. This means that I am too late to do it this year.

My hope is that somehow the damaged trees will survive so I will have another chance to use the information next year. Usually there is false hope as the young damaged trees will bud, leaf out, and even bloom before wilting and dying.

Don't forget our Spring Class Series continues. Tuesday, April 26, Jim Reifenberg, Chisago County Master Gardener will do a class on vermiculture which is culture of earthworms making compost for your potted plants as well as your garden. Jim did a class at our Bonanza and there was great interest in his approach. Classes are held at the Senior Center in North Branch. All classes begin at 6:30 p.m. and the cost is $5 per person.

We still have bare root plants for sale although we are running out of certain varieties. If you need any information about the classes or ordering plants, call our office at 277-0151, or you can call me at 651-257-4496, and leave a message.


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