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Extent of rabbit damage difficult to tell until spring

Q: Rabbits are chewing the bark from around my apple tree. I just put chicken wire around it to stop additional damage. Is there anything else I should do, and will the tree recover? - Dave Salinger, Bismarck, ND.A: Whether the apple tree will be...

Plant damage caused by rabbits during the winter cannot be fully assessed until spring. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum
Plant damage caused by rabbits during the winter cannot be fully assessed until spring. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum

Q: Rabbits are chewing the bark from around my apple tree. I just put chicken wire around it to stop additional damage. Is there anything else I should do, and will the tree recover? - Dave Salinger, Bismarck, ND.

A: Whether the apple tree will be permanently damaged depends on how deeply the rabbit chewed and how far around the trunk the damage occurred. Other than protecting the trunk from further damage, there isn't much that can be done, except wait and see what happens in spring.

A tree's important growth tissue and the tubes that conduct water and nutrients up and down within a tree are located quite closely beneath the outer bark. Damage doesn't need to be deep to cause problems. If trunk damage is in a small area, the rest of the trunk's tissue can compensate, and the area can heal.

Sometimes a tree will leaf out fine after such injury because it had enough stored strength, but will wilt and diminish in hot weather or other stress. Giving a damaged tree a little extra spring care can help with recovery.

Besides protecting tree trunks from rabbits, it's also important to wrap thin-barked trees with tree wrap to prevent winter sunscald damage to bark, as winter sun reflects from bright snow. We'll keep our fingers crossed for your apple tree's speedy recovery.

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Q: Our Styrofoam rose cones blew away in the wind. I forgot to weight them down and now they're long gone. The store where I bought them doesn't carry them this time of year. Any suggestions for protecting the roses now that it's winter? - Nancy Felder, Alexandria, Minn.

A: Straw would provide good insulation, if you can find a farmer close by with bales for sale. Fiberglass insulation tied around the rose bushes might look a bit odd, but could work in a pinch. Snow is also a handy insulator. Shoveling extra around perennials, roses and tender plants gives a good layer of protection. Unfortunately, it isn't always dependable, and sometimes disappears in midwinter with January thaws.

Q: Is there a rule of thumb for how often to repot houseplants? Several of my plants don't need bigger pots, but I don't know how often to replace the soil. - Linda Stranfelt, Wahpeton, ND.

A: Although it isn't a hard-and-fast rule of thumb, most houseplants seem to do fine if repotted every two years or so. Yearly repotting isn't usually needed, if the original potting mix is high quality.

There are several indicators that plants need repotting. If the plant looks top-heavy and too large in proportion, a larger pot is needed. If a houseplant wilts easily between waterings and need watering more frequently than it used to, upsizing the pot will help.

Plants in the right-sized pot might just need fresh soil without increasing pot size. If the soil looks hard-packed or if a whitish crust has appeared, the plant will appreciate fresh soil. A total repotting can be done, or several inches of the upper soil can be scooped out and replaced with new potting mix.

Q: I've read about spruce diseases that can affect Colorado spruce. I want to plant an evergreen that can screen a portion of my backyard. I'd like it to fairly wide at the base and tall enough to provide some privacy and screening. Any suggestions? - Doug T., Fargo.

A: Colorado spruce, including the blue varieties, are more susceptible to needle diseases than many other types of evergreens. Black Hills spruce, with its dark green, softer and shorter needles is less susceptible to problems than Colorado spruce.

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Another evergreen that deserves wider use for screening as a spruce replacement is Techny arborvitae. Unlike the narrow pyramidal arborvitae types, Techny develops a large tear-drop shape that can easily reach 20 to 30 feet high and 10 to 12 feet in base diameter. Once used more commonly for foundation plantings, it's too large to use next to buildings.

Instead, it can be used successfully as a large screening specimen for side or backyards, where a spruce might be used. To screen a larger area, a grouping of three could be planted. Techny arborvitae is fully winter hardy, and its strong, leathery foliage is highly resistant to winterburn.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com . All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

Related Topics: DON KINZLERDON KINZLER
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