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Published: Tuesday, 2/8/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Get rid of unwanted guests

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
IN THE GARDEN

I just love having visitors. You get to share a great meal, laugh about old times, play a few games, then call it a night. Yep. I love visitors, but not when they only want to nibble on the base of my young magnolia bush I brought home from Washington scurry around the yard and make a little nest for me to stumble upon.

Who's coming over?

I think the little critters are having a party and unfortunately my magnolia is on their menu. If you have small scrapes at the snow line of the tree, your visitor could be mice or even rabbits. Usually, scrap marks from a rabbit are larger than the nibbles of mice.

According to Ohio State University, the meadow and pine mouse (vole) feed on trees and love fruit plants. Meadow mice eat the bark of the trunk and roots both above and below the ground level. Pine mice nest underground, eating bark from the roots near the surface.

OSU scientists also have found that rabbits generally will feed on apple trees and brambles when the soil is covered with snow for 10 to 14 days.

Voles are clever and will burrow through the snow to find the protection and food around your tree. One trick you can use to discourage their travels is to stomp the snow down around the base of your trees. This will make it tough for them to set up residency because they don't like crawling over the icy packed snow.

Check the fortress

I've had some voles visiting the base of my start from George and Martha's place. It is still very small, so I just need to rewrap the base with protective landscape wrap.

Get some protection around the base of your tree if you haven't done that yet this season. A hard plastic tree guard helps if it is wrapped tightly. If you did it earlier this season, it doesn't hurt to check your work right about now.

If it has come loose, it can also make a nice little condo for our little buddies looking for food during these winter months.

It is equally important to make sure you take the plastic protection off your tree this spring. If this wrap stays on too long, it can end up choking and damaging your tree.

Now what?

If your unwanted guests end up chomping deep into the bark to expose the cambium layer around the whole tree, it can mean a death sentence for the plant.

The cambium layer carries all of the food from the roots to the rest of the tree. If rabbits or mice chew around the entire tree, they are cutting off its lifeline. This is called girdling the tree.

You will start to see the first signs of decline this spring when it doesn't leaf out.

But don't give up hope right away. Some trees can be tough. Wait until mid summer. If you don't see any action in your tree in June, then go ahead and dig it up.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at kheidbreder@theblade.com.



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