|Gravenstein Apple Tree in Container. 10.2.16|
A few of my orchard trees have been killed in their first year, by gnawing rodents that remove virtually all of the roots up to the graft. I strongly suspect voles, which are gnawing herbivores that do eat roots and bark. I have read that voles use mole tunnels to travel around and access roots. Often, my small trees have been surrounded by mole hills and therefore mole tunnels, from shortly after planting. I suspect the voles have used those mole tunnels to do their dastardly deeds, murdering my baby fruit trees.
What is the attraction for moles, to the roots of these trees? Moles are predatory carnivores. They eat bugs and worms. Again, I don't know for certain, but my guess is that the rich planting compost in the tree containers, is a boon for worms and bugs. Which then attracts moles, who eat the bugs, leaving tunnels for moles who eat the roots and bark.
For entirely different reasons, horticulturalist Linda Chalker Scott strongly recommends bare-rooting new containerized trees prior to planting. She also recommends bare-rooting balled-and-burlapped trees. Doing so, allows correction of time-bomb flaws that can kill a tree several years down the road.
|Apple Tree Roots in Conntainer Medium. 10.2.16|
I've always cut off winding roots, and often make incisions deep into the container soil, but almost never bare-rooted a tree. What's more, this tree is in full leaf.
This being fall, today was rainy and overcast, temperature in the 60s. I thought, not bad for a brief period of naked tree roots.
|Roots After About 5 Minutes of Hosing Off. 10.2.16|
|Roots After About 10 Minutes of Hosing Off. 10.2.16|
|Bare-Rooted Apple Tree. 10.2.16|
The washing process required about 10 minutes, wash, turn, wash, turn, wash, etc. I don't think the roots need every last scrap of soil removed, just the best that I can do.
After some minor root pruning, I planted the tree in it's selected spot. The level is the same as in the container, with the graft a bit about 3 inches or so above soil level. I watered the soil in around the roots, with the hole about 1/3 full, 2/3 full, and finally when fully filled. The goal was to get the roots all well blanketed with native soil, as best as I could.
Vole guard (1/4 inch hardwar cloth) and deer cage (larger mesh fencing) are all in place. I've learned not to delay those protective measures.
|Tree Planted with Graft a Few Inches Above Soil Line. 10.2.16|
Mulch will follow. I'm thinking it will be grass clipping mulch, which packs down significantly during the winter and does not seem to provide warm dry fluffy homes for rodents.
Not a single leaf fell from the tree. I'll continue checking, but I think it won't miss a beat.
|Tree Planted, Vole Guard in Place, Deer Cage in Place.|