The hare population seems to be booming in Fairbanks. This winter, some hares were able to walk right over the fences and completely girdle some fruit trees by eating the bark Girdling happens when the phloem, the inner most layer of the bark, is removed from the tree. The job of the phloem is to conduct materials created in the leaves (for example, sugar) down to the roots of the tree. Over time, girdling results in the death of the parts of the tree above which the bark has been removed.
Most of the apple trees we saw had been chewed quite thoroughly. Bark was removed from the tree down to about 6 to 12 inches above ground, all the way up to the snow level when the hares started chewing, perhaps 3 feet off the ground. For these trees a cleft graft seemed like the best way to save the root stock and start some new apple wood growing.
My husband and chief orchardist, Steve Masterman, chose branches from a variety of apple trees which grow successfully in our Fairbanks orchard. He looked for branches that had grown vigorously during the previous summer and that had a couple of healthy buds on them. Each stick was about 6 inches long.
I took pictures to document the process. You can click on any of the pictures to view them larger.
In a few weeks, we should have our first signs of whether or not any of the trees have survived and will grow into healthy apple trees.