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Winter + Very Small Trees = Disaster?

 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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We've recently planted a lot of small trees. The vast majority are doing fine. There are some (about 25 maybe) that look very much like they have been cut. The cut is often angular and very clean. Once or twice there were two cut pieces, always from the top of the tree stem. We were very confused by what was beginning to become an episode from the mystery channel.

After some brainstorming, the possibilities are:

a. Someone very sneaky came with razor sharp scissors and cut small tree saplings randomly. Possible where we are but not likely. If someone wanted to push our buttons there are many other, more healthy saplings to cut.

b. Someone inadvertently stepped on them and broke the stem with a perfect slice. Possible, given the hunters that feel the need to trespass on our property.

c. Our chickens decided it was time to break some saplings off. This was the winning theory for a while, since the most damage seems to have been done in the area where they like to scratch. Bigger saplings in the same area weren't affected. This theory came into question when we saw the same thing happening in places where the chickens (more than likely) had never been.

d. The stems turned to ice and a bird landing or a wind wisping decided it was time for the top 3 inches to come off.

Any ideas on how to solve the mystery? We're leaning toward option (d) for now. Now, as for the eventual outcome of all this stem breaking? I know maple will grow 2 new shoots with no problem. What about other trees and bushes?

Thanks.
William
 
duane hennon
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hi William

If that happened here in western Pennsylvania
I would say "deer"
do you have any free roaming browsers there?
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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How is the rabbit population in your area?

Here's an image of small tree topped by a rabbit:

http://lcrc.on.ca/resources/garden-resources/deterring-unwanted-guests-in-the-garden

Note the angular nature of the cut.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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John Wolfram wrote:How is the rabbit population in your area?

Here's an image of small tree topped by a rabbit:

http://lcrc.on.ca/resources/garden-resources/deterring-unwanted-guests-in-the-garden

Note the angular nature of the cut.


Yup. What I was going to say. Rabbits. You need to cage small trees. At least I do but then I have rabbit Utopia.
 
William James
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Very interesting!

Does the rabbit eat the tops of the stems? Many of the topped stems are lying beside the plant, which suggested to us that it wasn't an animal eating it.

We have about 1 rabbit that hangs around, but I haven't seen it in a while. It could be that, especially with the angular cut.

William
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 225
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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William James wrote:Very interesting!

Does the rabbit eat the tops of the stems? Many of the topped stems are lying beside the plant, which suggested to us that it wasn't an animal eating it.

We have about 1 rabbit that hangs around, but I haven't seen it in a while. It could be that, especially with the angular cut.

William


We saw exactly this last winter. We actually caught the perpetrator in the act - a meadow vole.
 
Akiva Silver
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During the winter, rabbits love to chew on the bark of shoots, especially fruit trees and willows and poplars.
Young trees should be protected during winter months against rabbits, voles, and deer. We use hardware cloth around very small trees and the plastic spiral wraps around bigger trees as well as a circle of 4-5 ft. high fence.
 
William James
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We'll see how much work I'm willing to put into this. We just got done planting 4-500 plants and we're pretty exhausted and have a lot of other irons in the fire. Hardware cloth costs like 2 euros per meter here, so there's that as well. Might leave it up to nature, since only a small proportion were affected.

However, the spiral plastic tree guards for the older trees might be more of a possibility since they probably don't cost much and can be applied/taken off pretty fast. Plus, we only have a few older-ish trees that would need protecting.

We noticed that the trees most affected were the ones NOT planted on berms but on flat ground, so 2 points for berms and swales. Guess the rabbits or voles don't want to be discovered.

William
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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William James wrote:


We'll see how much work I'm willing to put into this. We just got done planting 4-500 plants and we're pretty exhausted and have a lot of other irons in the fire. Hardware cloth costs like 2 euros per meter here, so there's that as well. Might leave it up to nature, since only a small proportion were affected.

However, the spiral plastic tree guards for the older trees might be more of a possibility since they probably don't cost much and can be applied/taken off pretty fast. Plus, we only have a few older-ish trees that would need protecting.

We noticed that the trees most affected were the ones NOT planted on berms but on flat ground, so 2 points for berms and swales. Guess the rabbits or voles don't want to be discovered.

William


I don't know if you have the option but I buy "stucco wire" which is essentially rusted wire they can't sell for a high price anymore. Doesn't bother me if it has a little bit of weathering. I cut it up and use it for everything.

I did find some tree trunk protectors for $0.80 each. Kind of expensive when you need 500.
 
William James
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Everywhere I look on the web, everyone seems to agree that rabbits leave a 45 degree angle.
Why a 45 degree angle? Are they geometricians on the side?
William
 
Bill Erickson
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William, it probably has something to do with the geometry of their bite. Animals with large incisors make that angle of cut from what I have seen. Rabbits, voles and such for the most part, but beavers make similar cuts on small saplings rather than the "axeman's cut" you'll see on larger ones. Hopefully you find out what the mysterious pruner is that you have.
 
John Wolfram
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William James wrote:We'll see how much work I'm willing to put into this. We just got done planting 4-500 plants and we're pretty exhausted and have a lot of other irons in the fire. Hardware cloth costs like 2 euros per meter here, so there's that as well. Might leave it up to nature, since only a small proportion were affected.

If defensive measures are not available, how about offensive measures? I have no clue about the regulations in Italy, but here the US (at least the midwest) it is easy to get a permit to trap rabbits year round if they are doing damage to your crops. Traps are cheap, easy to use, and only take a few minutes to set up (plus you get rabbit meat!). I doubt they have Rural King in Italy, but they sell a two pack of cage traps for US$30.

2 Trap Value Pack at Rural King US$30.
 
William James
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Bill Erickson wrote:William, it probably has something to do with the geometry of their bite. Animals with large incisors make that angle of cut from what I have seen. Rabbits, voles and such for the most part, but beavers make similar cuts on small saplings rather than the "axeman's cut" you'll see on larger ones. Hopefully you find out what the mysterious pruner is that you have.


Thanks for answering that. I realize it was a silly question, but one that I felt needed an official answer. Thx again.
Talked with a friend who's a gardener and his first thought was "rabbit", so that's a pretty good confirmation of what's going on. He also confirmed that the plant will just push out new main branches, so we're not really going to worry too much about it.

@John Wolfram
Thanks for the idea. We have a bunch of those traps, but they're currently on the front lines battling the rats which have taken residence next to the chickens. Yesterday the sinister rats got the best of us and actually coaxed a bird into the trap and then ate the bird, leaving just the head. They seem to know the traps are for them and try their best to avoid them.
William

 
Ray Moses
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Location: Brighton, Michigan
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I was having the same problem and yes hardware cloth is really expensive so I went to the local hardware store who fixes door screens and got all of his scrap screen to stake around my small planting to protect from voles and rabbits
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Ray Moses wrote:I was having the same problem and yes hardware cloth is really expensive so I went to the local hardware store who fixes door screens and got all of his scrap screen to stake around my small planting to protect from voles and rabbits

Other options for non-conventional tree guards include converting gutters and gutter guards. Ray, if you check Menard's weekly ad, you will often find that you can get 100 feet of gutter, or 180 feet of gutter guard free after rebate.
About a minute in:

 
Peter Ellis
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Rats are disturbingly smart. You might want to consider a variation on the pit traps used for catching rabbits, they take advantage of the animals' tendencies to use particular "safe" pathways and they are not as obviously traps as something like the live trap cages.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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