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Protecting trees, shrubs from animals

Now that fall is here, it is time to consider protecting trees and shrubs from damage caused by mice and rabbits.

Deer may also be a problem; controlling them is very difficult without the use of properly installed fencing. These animals cause damage during the winter months by feeding on branches, twigs and bark, which could result in the death of the plant. Deer can also cause damage in the fall by rubbing antlers on trees.

A good way to protect the bark of trees from mice and rabbits is to place a tree guard made of quarter-inch hardware cloth or a plastic tree guard around the base of the tree that extends from two inches below the soil line to the lowest branch or two feet above the anticipated snow line.

It is important that the hardware cloth or tree guard extend into the soil about two inches to prevent mice from entering underneath the guard during the winter. Guards should be checked throughout the winter to ensure they are at the proper height. Tree guards may be left in place from year to year as long as they are large enough to allow the trunk to grow. Guards should be checked periodically for proper fit around the tree.

Shrubs can be protected from mice and rabbits by placing a screen made of quarter-inch hardware cloth around the perimeter of the shrub. Extend the hardware cloth from two inches below the soil line to the top of the shrub, or two feet above the anticipated snow line. Support the hardware cloth with posts if necessary.

If several shrubs need protection and they are close together, you can place a fence around the perimeter of the entire group using quarter-inch hardware cloth. To support the hardware cloth, place posts around the perimeter of the shrubs, and secure the hardware cloth to the posts. Use as many posts as needed to keep the hardware cloth secure. It is a good idea to check your shrub screens throughout the fall and winter for damage and to make sure no animals have entered the enclosed area.

As mentioned earlier, protecting trees and shrubs from deer is very difficult. The only effective way is to install appropriate fencing around trees and shrubs, and in most cases this is not desirable or possible. One method that may be effective against winter damage caused by deer is to use repellents containing the common fungicide thiram. They can also be effective against mice and rabbits.

Repellents make the plant undesirable through taste or smell. Repellents need to be periodically reapplied especially after a heavy rain. The effectiveness of repellents may be reduced especially for deer control if the population is high and other food sources are limited.

For more information on getting your landscape ready for winter, please contact your local Master Gardeners or give me a call: Will Yliniemi, Hubbard/Becker County Extension Educator at 1-218-732-3391 or 1-218-846-7328, by cell at 1-218-252-1042, or by e-mail at:

Fall disease control in home landscapes

Labor Day has come and gone, kids are back in school and fall is here! Killing frosts signal the end of the growing season and time to clean up your flower and vegetable gardens and to prepare your home landscape for winter. A major purpose for cleaning up your gardens in the fall is for the control of diseases and insects that over-winter on plant debris.

The following are some important disease control tips for the end of the growing season:

n Remove and destroy infected plants or parts of plants as soon as they are observed in order to reduce disease spread.

n Clean up and remove plant refuse in your garden as soon as plants are through producing.

n Control weeds in and around your garden because they can harbor disease and can be an important source of infection next year.

n Fall is the best time to control tough perennial weeds with herbicide.

n After the first killing frost, remove all plant material from your vegetable and flower gardens. Cut back your perennials; rake up fallen leaves and mulch with clean straw.

n Make note of what plants were diseased and where they were located in your garden. Select resistant varieties, if available, and plan for crop rotation. A good practice is to plant related crops in the same site once every three or four years.

n Prune your trees and shrubs during the dormant season. Thinning improves air circulation and decreases the severity of many foliage diseases.

n Most garden debris can be disposed of by composting. Disease and insect infested debris should be disposed by proper composting, burying or burning. Composting garden refuse, if done properly, should destroy disease organisms. The compost should be frequently turned and maintained at a temperature of 120 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three weeks. For proper composting procedures refer to Composting and Mulching: A Guide to Managing Yard Wastes. This publication is available at most county Extension Offices.

Disease control in gardens begins with planning in the winter, and ends with harvest and cleanup in the fall. Practicing year-round plant disease management will allow you to use a wider variety of control measures and make you less reliant on chemical measures.

For more information please contact: Will Yliniemi, Hubbard/Becker County Extension Educator at 1-218-732-3391, 1-218-846-7328 or by cell at 1-218-252-1042, or by e-mail at