We learned a lesson about rodents and fruit trees the hard way this winter. We’d never had this problem before, but apparently we’d never had the right conditions for it before. Deep, persistent snow cover creates the ideal conditions for rodents to attack tree bark because they can do so without worrying about predators. This is the first year in my memory that we did not have a single thaw between December and March. Add in piles of snow during that same period, and you have a recipe for rodent heaven in the orchard.
When snow finally did melt out in April, and we discovered roughly a dozen fruit trees completely girdled. Some freshly planted, but some 10+ years old. Hoping to save them, we searched online to see if there was anything to be done.
The universal opinion of the internet was that if less than 50% of the bark was removed around the circumference of the tree, there was still hope of saving it through a complicated procedure called a bridge graft. Any more than that and there’s no hope. Or so they say…
Now that everything has leafed in and flowered, all the girdled trees in the orchard seem perfectly fine. In fact, some seem to have weathered winter much better than the trees the rodents didn’t find.
The pictures below are the same pear tree in the girdled picture above. It’s fully healthy and shows substantial new growth.
It seems to have even set a few dozen pear fruits. In fact, just about all the girdled trees seem to be setting fruit. They don’t exactly seem starved of nutrients to me.
We’ll continue to monitor, but for now, we’re still hopeful that some of them will make it through even completely girdled. Time will tell…