Rabbits and Apple Trees
by Bob Magnus | © 2006 Woodbridge Fruit Trees | www.woodbridgefruittrees.com.au
It seems rabbits (and sometimes hares) have a definite taste for apple trees - often particularly newly planted ones during winter. We’re regularly receiving calls from people (gardeners) who have gone out one morning to find their trees stripped of bark up to a height of 30cm (rabbit height) - so watch out!
The best way to avoid this is to exterminate the pest – but we all know this is nigh impossible. Rabbits have proved to be absolute survivors and coexist happily and even thrive in close proximity to humans. The next best is to securely fence off your orchard / garden. A rabbit proof fence. This is what we have done at our farm. Occasionally one gets in but the dog and cats usually get it, but not always before it does some nibbling. We know if the cats are getting rabbits by the fleas on their ears.
If you’re only planting a few trees, a tube of chicken mesh 50cm tall is excellent protection for newly planted trees but it’s not realistic in large plantings. About 10 years ago we went away through the winter and when we came home our trees had been ravished by rabbits. Not just the trunk but all lower branches within their reach.
In desperation, I painted all the wounds with a water based asphalt product called gripset 40. It’s used to paint the insides of your rusty gutters but we use it as a sealer on our newly grafted trees. It was a great success! Not only did the trees heal well but the "black stuff" as we now call it, proved as a deterrent to the rabbits and they haven’t touched them for 3 years. GRIPSET is available from hardware shops and seems a cheap and effective protection against rabbit attack. All of our new plantings are painted. Protection is better than cure.
Although GRIPSET is the one we use there are many others. Even water based paint may do the job. Just don’t used solvent based products – they’ll burn the bark of your young trees.