Rabbit protection, a necessity
Sometimes when you do all that you can for protection of your fig trees from natural forces, nature and a rabbit will prevail somehow.
This winter was a rather harsh one. Snow was protection over the ground for over a month with several snow storms and frozen temperatures. Most winters in New Jersey have periods of snowfall where the snow melts completely between storms, but not this year. The result is that the wild rabbits in the area couldn’t feast on their usual meals such as grass, ornamental plants and bushes. It turns out that when their normal food sources are eliminated, they go after tree bark. But not any ordinary tree. They go after the sweet stuff, such as fig tree bark. Today, I looked out the window and noticed a white coloration on my trees as though the bark had been scraped off.
So, I figured OK, some animal or bug has come in contact with my trees. I mixed up some whitewash (a 50/50 mix with water) and trudged through the deep snow to get to the trees. Once I reached them I saw extensive damage to the bark and evidence of rabbit droppings surrounding the trees. The rabbits chewed away at the smaller branches before zeroing in on the tough bark surrounding the main tree trunk. Some branches had the bark completely stripped clean.
I went ahead and painted all the affected areas to help prevent rot and insects while the weather warms up. It would be a miracle if the affected branches survive for the Spring season.
Gone are the days of a free-range tree
So, how would I protect the trees in the future? Since the affects of winter are generally unpredictable, I’d say that a way to protect the trees from future onslaughts from rabbits is to wrap the base of the tree with foil up to about 2-3 feet off the ground. I’m sure that other materials could be used such as burlap encased in plastic or simply surround the tree with 24 x 25 Poultry Netting Mesh 1 inch Openings 20 gauge Galvanized Fence Wire Gutter Guards Chicken Run Rabbit Fencing to Keep Out Racoons Gophor Skunks Opposums with a 2 foot radius that is at least 2-3 ft high. The wire is fastened together with MIDWEST AIR TECH/IMPORT 901154A 4′ LD U Style Fence Post. Rabbits can stand pretty tall when they get up on those hind legs.
After installing this chicken wire fencing, this problem never reproduced itself. Since then, this fencing material has been set in place because it also keeps the landscapers from whacking the tree with their weed whackers.
Life Emerges From Death
This tree was so badly damaged from the rabbits, that it didn’t survive. When the tree died, I cut down the trunk to a couple of inches from the ground and left the fencing in place with weeds growing where the tree was. Two years later, a fig tree began to grow from the original root system. Let this be a lesson learned that when a fig tree appears to be dead, the root system might be very much alive.