Rodent-Proofing Fruit Trees

Reader Contribution by Ellen Sandbeck
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I have already written about the amazing toughness of Rasputin, our crabapple tree. The fall after Rasputin was girdled by rodents, I decided to try to figure out a technique that would protect saplings from roden

t damage, even if a fence sagged, a spiral of plastic trunk wrap fell off, or a vole got trapped inside a tree tube. After some meditation, I came up with what has proven to be a very effective rodent-deterring technique.

I bought some black carborundum sand, which is commonly used for sandblasting, a quart of white latex paint (indoor, no preservatives), and a couple of foam paintbrushes. Then, on a warm, bright fall day, I poured sand very slowly into the paint, while stirring gently, and kept adding until the paint was approximately the consistency of thin cake batter and the sand was evenly mixed in. The paint needs to remain thin enough to stick to the tree trunks and stay on until it dries, and the temperature needs to be warm enough that the paint will stick to the trunks.

I spent a few hours painting the trunks of fruit tree saplings and the multiple trunks of fruiting bushes. After the paint dried, we wrapped the tree trunks with plastic spiral trunk protectors, but it is not possible to wrap the multiple trunks of fruiting bushes. Then all I could do was wait until Spring.

Spring sprang, and I was anxious to check for rodent damage. There was none! Apparently mice and voles are reluctant to chew on tree trunks that could double as sandpaper. It’s been a dozen years now, and our sanded trees have sustained zero rodent damage. I repaint the small, more vulnerable trees and fruiting bushes every year in late autumn.