Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I don't like 'mouse' guards

'Mouse' guards may be a good old-school Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practice, but increasingly I find them to be a BAD horticultural practice. Reasons?

  • impractical, labor-intensive, and expensive when planting modern, hi-density orchards of 1,000 or more trees per acre
  • provide refuge for dogwood borers
  • accumulate debris and promote burr-knots and/or scion rooting
  • don't allow for easy maintenance/removal of root suckers
  • give a false sense of security against mouse or rabbit damage in some cases
  • are not maintained over the long run and make monitoring the health of the graft-union area over time problematic

My recommendation NO MORE MOUSE GUARDS in new, hi-density plantings. (In reality they should be called 'vole' guards because the meadow vole is the primary rodent that chews apple bark in the winter.) Focus on "good ground cover management = effective vole management." And good ground cover management means: establishment of low-growing fescues or other turf-type grasses in the row middles at new orchard planting; frequent mowing; effective herbicide use that maintains clean strips of soil down the tree row; and if necessary, application of rodenticides in the fall before the snow falls when vole populations are too high for you to sleep good all winter. JC