Fruit Tree Guards

That is a tree guard made of 1/4″ hardware cloth. The idea is to stop little mice from dining on the tender bark of our sapling fruit trees. You can buy tree guard wraps made of spirals of plastic but I had read that moisture can build up between the plastic and the tree’s bark causing disease.

St. Lawrence Nurseries of Potsdam, NY recommends making the wraps out of metal wire mesh like the ones shown. We simply cut the mesh into sections that were 8″ by the width of the roll of wire (48″) and then rolled them on a piece of 2″ PVC pipe. This is most easily done by two people. I think if I were to set three small screws in the PVC I could easily turn it into a one person task. Add a hand crank, a cutter blade and you’ve got an instant tree guard manufacturing machine. But we only needed about 18 of the guards so I kept it simple. Most of the trees only need 24″ to 36″ of guard so we cut them to size as we protected each tree.

As you may notice, the bottom edge is buried in the dirt. This keeps the mice from tunneling under. We will be adding some window screening over it to protect from insects and to keep the trees from being rubbed against the edge of the wire at the top.

All of this also protects the trees from the attention of little piglets, chickens, ducks and mowers if we had the latter. To protect the apple and pear trees from larger animals the saplings are planted between two electric fences. Sheep in particular enjoy dining on the buds and bark. It is the ducks and chicken’s job to keep that area mowed. I’ll need to explain that to them next spring.

Each tree has a hollow around it so we can more easily saturate them when watering. This keeps the water from running off so it soaks into the soil around the trees roots. This is especially important the first year when they are getting established. My brother was just telling me the other day that of the dozen trees he planted from The National Arbor Day Foundation this spring he thinks that only five survived the summer. Failure to get their roots established is what he thinks did in his saplings.

We fill the depression around the base of the trees with a mulch of hay which will help protect the roots from frost heaving as well as keeping the soil cooler and moister in the summer. This also keeps down the growth of weeds (e.g., grass) around the trees so they have less competition. That is recommended in the books I’ve read although it seems odd to me that a little grass would affect these trees that much – they are already four to five feet tall.

With attention, time and a bit of luck we should have more apples than you can shake a stick at and more than we can possibly eat. Twenty-two full size apples plus six pear trees should can produce a lot of fruit, maybe around three or four tons a year. We plan to eat, store, press, sauce and dry. Extras beyond what we put up for ourselves will feed the animals – an excellent treat for the fall and winter when the variety of food gets rather limited.

An Apple a day keeps Windows at bay.

30째F/14째F, 1″ Snow, Partly Sunny


About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Fruit Tree Guards

  1. ranch101 says:

    A little grass won’t hurt your saplings. What does hurt is when they get lost in 6′ grass as happened to our young orchard. Really hard to tend trees we can’t find… I’m still angry about the waste. We lost, literally, more than half our trees.

    The poultry are helping us reclaim the orchard area, but it’s slow going.

  2. Hick says:

    Apples are my favorite fruit. We have two apple trees (Golden Delicious) here on the Hick House property. But, we really don’t get enough sun to grow them propely. Too bad.

    Looks like you put in a lot of work on those little apple trees.

  3. Sue says:

    I put in a couple of little apple trees in my backyard last year. Now they’re at least 4 feet high, so at this rate I’ll be 90 years old before they’re big enough to give any apples.

    Clever idea with the tree guard. Last year I used some sort of cloth strip that looked like something you’d soak in plaster to set a broken (human) limb.

  4. alfred gibbs says:

    I have 3 Persimmon tree. Two of them have four post with tin nailed around them. The tree that has nothing protecting it, has lossed all of it’s persimmons this pass year. I am thinking about using instead of the tin way, use pcv piping around the bark. What do you think? I have checked into a few tree guards, the cost for a few are very high priced. Looking at the my one tree I can see where the animals climb up and just eat every lost fruit.

    • I’m not sure. I’ve never had persimmons so I don’t know anything about it but it sounds like you are right about the animals and the guards. We just made our guards from wire. Maybe if you started with a schedule 10 or 20 PVC pipe you could make a guard that is split up the sides which you could open and put the tree in and then zip tie closed. This way later you could open it up again when the tree no longer needs the guard. Our apple trees didn’t need their guards after about three years.

  5. Larry AJ says:

    You can buy stove pipe in several lengths and diameters that are not snapped together so they can be “opened up” to go around a tree and then snapped together to form a solid pipe around a tree. A little more expensive than the PVC but then you don’t have to try to slit the PVC lengthwise which I think would be hard. The stove pipe could also be “unsnapped” and reused.

    • Stove pipe rots out pretty fast unless you buy stainless steel which is terribly expensive and even the non-stainless is expensive compared with PVC. PVC is very easy to split once you’re setup to do it which is worth it probably if doing many and if just doing a few then the commercial product is a minor cost. The thing we’ve ended up using the most is the hardware cloth mesh or screening scraps – free and easy.

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