Saving a young tree
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