Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Cage Protection for Special Plants

Pecan tree caged for winter.
       For me this year saw a change in direction in my yard work and, consequently, the addition of several trees and other plants that I had never before considered planting. To help these delicate young things make it through our tough Michigan winters without being consumed by hungry critters or damaged by a cute but rampaging puppy, I caged them.
       My choice for caging material is chicken wire. It's lightweight, not terribly expensive, cuts easily and as chores go, is right up there with cleaning the toilet. From a 50 foot roll of three feet wide wire I cut seventy inch lengths using old by-pass pruning shears. This makes a circle big enough for the plant to grow if I choose to leave the cage in place during the summer.  Working on a hard, flat surface makes unrolling the wire easier. So does having someone stand on the end while you unroll. I used the cut ends to secure the wire to itself to hold the circle shape.
Looking down at pecan tree base.
Note that the mulch does not touch trunk.
       To secure the cage in place around the plant, I dug a shallow trench in which to set the cage, then filled in with dirt and mulch. If your ground is firm, you can use stakes to hold the wire instead of the trench, but trenching makes digging under the wire a little more difficult for rabbits. Mulch is good, unless you overdo. Ever seen trees with several inches of mulch heaped around their base? Two inches is all that's needed. More can prevent water from getting to the plant's roots. More is also a invitation to damaging insects and mice. However much mulch you use, it should not actually touch the tree trunk as that makes attacking the tree so much easier for the critters that will inhabit it.
       To keep deer from browsing through the top opening, I cut another piece of chicken wire and secured this is place using small pieces of wire. I could have used the cut ends of the chicken wire again, but I want to be able to take the tops off with ease, and without too much damage to me. If you've worked with chicken wire, you know what I mean. Another option for holding the top on is small clamps.
      There are more than a dozen of these cages around my yard now. Fortunately, I like the way they look, almost like sculptures, so I may not take them down until the trees outgrows them.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely have worked with a lot of chicken wire and I have to agree--right up there with working on the toilet! But it does work for so many things...