[NAFEX] Apple Tree Girdling

Steve sdw12986 at aol.com
Fri Apr 4 01:14:55 EDT 2008

Jason MacArthur wrote:
> Well, the snow is finally melting away from the bases of my apple  
> trees enough that I can see just how terrible the mice were this  
> winter.  Some trees are goners without a doubt, but some are 70-90%  
> girdled, and I am wondering if these will have what they need to pull  
> through and grow or should I graft them completely over?
> All trees are on Dwarf Rootstock (M9, G16, B9) and are going into 4th  
> or 5th leaf.
> Any helpful experience to be shared?
> Jason MacArthur
> Marlboro, Vt

That scares me a bit. It will be a couple of weeks, at least, until I 
can see the base of some of my apples. One might be visible now but some 
are still under more than 2 feet of snow. To make matters worse, this is 
the first time in about 10 years that I didn't enclose the base of my 
trees with hardware cloth. Winter came so suddenly this year that I 
didn't get it done. I hope I don't have to bridge graft any of them this 

Don't give up, even on the ones that are completely girdled. This 
happened to my Honeygold tree about 10 years ago (the reason I started 
using the hardware cloth every winter until this one). I cut some long 
thin scions as soon as the damage was obvious. Water sprouts would be 
ideal, if you have any. I dug the soil from around the base (a couple of 
inches) to get a good view of the bottom of the damage. After it warmed 
up and the tree was showing signs of growth, I took the scions out of 
the refrigerator, cut the top and bottom at a slant. I cut little 
pockets in the bark above and below the mouse damage. I believe I cut a 
T shape to make the pockets. (Upside down T for the upper ones.) The 
scions should fit in tight. You want to bow them a bit to fit them into 
their pockets. The tension of the scion trying to go back to straight 
keeps them firmly in their place. As I recall, I wrapped masking tape 
all around the area to seal off the grafts and further keep the scions 
in place.

For my tree, I placed 3 scions around the trunk. Then nature gave me a 
gift. Two sprouts came up, on their own, from just below the mouse 
damage. When those got tall enough to be well past the upper edge of the 
damage, I cut their (upper) tips off (again slanted to fit flat against 
the trunk) and tucked them into pockets in the bark also. Those grew 
extremely well. So now I had 5 grafts, all of which grew and the tree if 
just fine and quite productive many years later.

For your trees, do 2 or 3 bridge grafts on the ones that are completely 
girdled. Maybe only one will be needed on the ones that still have good 
bark on the other side. This depends on the diameter of the trunk. Use 
you own judgment, it's not rocket science and what ever you do will 
probably work. Watch for sprouts that you can tuck in too. These are 
extremely easy because they are firmly attached at the bottom already. 
Also, they will not dry out since they are actually growing before you 
tuck them in. Good luck.

Steve (In the Adirondacks of northern NY)

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