Garden calendar: For the week of Nov. 25
Protect trees and shrubs from winter wildlife damage: It’s a good time now, before the snow really starts to fly and the ground freezes, to put protective fencing around trees and shrubs that often experience damage from deer, rabbit, vole, or mouse feeding over winter. Fruit trees, crab apples, burning bush shrubs, shrub hibiscus, low-growing junipers and arborvitaes are among the plants that are most commonly damaged. One material that works well is ¼ inch mesh-size or ½ inch mesh-size metal hardware cloth. It provides more protection than chicken wire, which has holes large enough for voles and mice to slip through. You will need to purchase a pair of tin snips with longer blades if you don’t have any, and it is not a bad idea to have some leather or heavy duty gloves, since the mesh ends are sharp. I can tell you from sad experience that knitted gloves/mittens are easily snagged, so canvas or leather work better.
Hardware cloth is usually available in heights of 24 inches and 36 inches (the ½ inch mesh is also available in a 48 inch height) and can be purchased in rolls, at most home improvement stores. Some hardware stores allow you to cut it to custom widths if you only need a small amount. I prefer to use the 36-inch-tall or 48-inch-tall mesh in case the snow is high; it also offers the most protection against buck-rub deer damage on tree trunks. You can splay the mesh out around the bottom of the trunk if there is a big root flare so it is flat to the ground. Use sod-staples (also called landscape stakes) that are U-shaped to pound through the holes in the mesh into the ground to prevent rodents from tunneling under. The edges around the sides of the cylinder can be joined together with cable ties threaded through the mesh for easy removal in spring. You can store the mesh in upright rolls for next year.
For some shrubs here at the Teaching Garden at the Dane County UW-Extension office we even screen over the top of the shrubs if deer are an issue.