Sav­ing a young tree

Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -


Help! I’ve got a young ap­ple tree that’s had the bark stripped all the way round it by rab­bits. Will this kill the tree? Is there any way I can save it?


Kevin Alviti says: Yes, it can be saved! If you leave the tree, chances are that the top will die off as it will get no sap; you might get some growth be­low but this is likely to be the root­stock. It can be saved by a method called bridge graft­ing, done in early spring.

Take a cou­ple of small branches of this year’s growth from the top of the tree. This should be soft and flex­i­ble. Cut it slightly longer than the area stripped by rab­bits. Then on each end cut, us­ing a sharp knife, a long cut and a small cut on the other side to make an off-cen­tre wedge shape.

In the trunk, make an in­ci­sion be­low the dam­age and one above. Th­ese cuts aren’t too deep, but enough to ex­pose the cam­bium layer just be­low the bark, this is where the sap flows in the tree. Then insert your ‘bridges’ into the cuts. They are cut slightly long so they have to be bent into po­si­tion help­ing to main­tain cam­bium contact once the tape is ap­plied. Th­ese bridges will act as new veins in the tree while it heals.

Tape it up us­ing graft­ing or elec­tri­cal tape, so it holds to­gether and ap­ply wax to seal it. The tree will soon heal and in five years you won’t be able to tell it ever hap­pened!

Com­plet­ing the re­pair

By­pass­ing the dam­aged area

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