This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
All gardening amateurs know, by experience, that rabbits and hares are very fond of the bark of young apple trees of a year's growth, and especially of dwarf apple trees, of which the most vigorous and healthy, are always attacked the first, because the bark is more tender and savoury.
As soon as the ground is covered with snow, these animals, finding nothing to nibble in the fields, begin their devastations in the gardens; if they are numerous, and the snow is abundant, a few nights will suffice to ruin completely the most beautiful plantation, and destroy the result of several years' labor and care. Only a short time since, three hundred fruit trees in the gardens and orchards of a land owner in the village of Othel in the province of Hanover, in Belgium, were entirely stripped of their bark.
Fortunately, nothing is easier than to shelter one's trees from the attacks of these mar rauders, that are protected by the law; the following method is employed by M..le Baron Vander Straeten or Waillet, for six or seven years, with entire success:
He infuses about two pounds of quick lime, in nearly three gallons of water; he throws several handsful of soot into this liquid, and stirs it until these two substances are thoroughly mixed. He then makes a paste of a handful of fine rye flour and binds it in the form of a brush, upon a stick* and with this mixture he covers the branches and the trunk of his trees, from the ground to the height of at least a yard; as, if the snow should be heaped up at the foot of the trees, by the wind, the hares could by its help, attain a greater height on the bark of the tree.
This mixture applied quite warm, possesses the additional advantage of keeping the bark in a state of preservation and health, and preventing the growth of moss, of which the effect is often injurious, and which is always disagreeable to the sight.
It is best to use this means of protection early in November, during a dry season, which will allow the mixture to adhere to the bark while drying. If there should be rain during the operation, or immediately after, the trees would be washed and it would have to be repeated.
If it should be done during a frost, there would be but little chance of success. The plaster with which the bark had been covered might be thrown off in a thaw. If, however, by want of prudence, the operation is overtaken by the frost, and it is necessary to act quickly, it may be done with success, by selecting that time of the day when the trees are most exposed to the direct rays of the sun.
Twelve pints of this mixture will be sufficient to protect 3 or 400 dwarf trees against the hares or rabbits, and may be obtained for a few cents worth of lime and one day's labor of an active man. This method is equally infallible for preserving the grafts of all nursery trees. J. Gibardin.
Hares don't grow in this country, and the boys snare all the rabbits; so we have nothing but the mice to trouble us. And they sometimes annoy us exceedingly. Till the bark of young trees gets so thick and rough that the mice Will not touch them, I have found no better way than to keep the ground ploughed, or dug around them, for several feet, and then examine them late in the fall, to see that no burrowing place is left for them. Hardly an effective composition can be invented, but what will hurt the trees more in its application, than the mice will in gnawing them, or that will not, after a little time, lose its pungency, or its peculiar preventive properties, and the vermin work their destruction in spite of it. A thousand nostrums have been invented for this bark-preservation during winter, but I have found the spade better than them all.
The quick-lime, and the water, and the soot, may be tried, however, and if it will do no good against the mice, it will certainly do the tree no harm.