Silvopasture and Agroforestry

Trees are protected and tucked in for winter

To be honest, this should have been done early in spring as it would have kept the deer from eating the tender and vital leaves produced in the first season after planting the bareroot mulberry trees. Luckily Morus trees are about as bulletproof as trees get and can be expected to make a full recovery. However it does mean that one season of growth is lost or at the very least retarded.

Considering my tree planting tips I’ve published in the past, I don’t like using anything that contacts the tree bark whether it is stakes or pest barriers. The chance for fatal girdling injuries is just too high to take the risk.

The approach is relatively simple: put a physical barrier around the trees to prevent browsing by deer or rabbits- both animals whose food sources grow scarce in the winter. Deer need to be dissuaded from reaching over the barrier to reach the stems or leaves, and rabbits need to dissuaded from chewing on the bark.

My uncle is a invaluable resource with his knowledge, connections in the local agricultural community and source of waste products for repurposing. Manure produced by his wintered animals has been used but for this post I have to mention the fence he removed that had divided his crop fields. From that removal, I recovered about 25 steel fence posts. Many of the rescued posts are 7 footers. If I had the tools, they would be cut in half as this purpose doesn’t require the stability of permanent livestock fences. Thus I could double the amount of tree barriers with the same materials albeit with weaker structural integrity.

Procedure

  • Drive a pair of fence posts into the ground on either side of the tree
  • Cut 1/2″ 19 gauge hardware cloth to the needed length
  • Attach hardware cloth to fence posts

IMG_20151014_141324

The half inch mesh of the hardware cloth is too small for even juvenile rabbits to squeeze through. Granted they could squeeze or dig under, but I’m hoping the…er, pokey(?)… nature of the hardware cloth will dissuade their efforts. If this is an issue, I can add tent stakes for extra anchoring.

However remember one of my main themes: energy management. It applies equally to wildlife as they want to secure as many calories as possible in a manner that expends as few calories as possible. Hopefully this barrier pushes the required calorie expenditure over the instinctual threshold of appeal to the animals.

Also of note, I attached the hardware cloth using zip ties. In an effort to reduce use of one-time-use materials, I switched to old, rusted electric fence wire that I found in the barn. Plus it yields the benefit of two quick twists of pliers to unlock the barrier allowing it to be raised for weeding sessions, neem oil sprays and mulch applications.

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