Winter Fruit Tree Care

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During the winter months, home orchard owners need to protect their fruit trees from rabbits and voles. Rabbits and voles can injure fruit trees by chewing the bark from the lower trunk and portions of the roots and this damage can kill or severely weaken the trees.

Keep the ground bare around the base of the trees to reduce habitat for rabbits and voles. If your trees are mulched, remember to pull the mulch back about six inches at the base of the trunk to keep the rodents away. Pick up and remove any fruit that remains beneath the trees as this can attract rodents. Always clean up fruit from the ground as part of annual fall and winter orchard cleanup.

Rodent guards are useful around the lower trunk of your fruit trees. These may be commercial plastic wrap guards or construct your own guards using quarter inch hardware cloth. The guards should cover the trunk to a height of 18 inches and encircle the trunk. Inspect the ground around the trees for tunnels in the grass or holes indicating vole activity. Use mousetraps when vole activity is noted.

Prior to spring growth, cut out dead and diseased wood, and do your annual pruning. Late February through March usually is the best time to prune.

row of fruit trees with guards around the trunks

Rodent Guards