Save a girlded apple tree?

Hey guys, looking to get some ideas here. I’ve been starting a small orchard and this winter I got 4 trees that got girdled completely. 3 year old trees about 5 feet tall.

I know they will sucker and I can regraft, BUT, I have buckets around the trees a few inches into the mulch to prevent mice, Im tempted of filling them up with soil up just passed the girdled area. It’s basically 6 to 8 inchs of dirt to be added to cover the trunk. Think it will callus or root ? The spots that were girlded aren’t fresh anymore either. It’s kinda like air layering I would say.

Curious on opinions !

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Cut off some long, thin branches from the same or another apple tree and try a few inarch grafts and prune about 1/3 of the branches off so it has a chance to recover before it exhausts its stored energy. I did this for one of my peach trees that had about a 1/4” strip of bark still intact and it bounced back great.


I favor @jeremybyington 's solution. You might well get them to root if you use rooting hormone and proceed as you say, but if they’re girdled above the graft your trees would lose whatever characteristics the rootstock provided -dwarfing, disease resistance, and so on.


Here’s something to try:

Look at the “Bridge and Inarch Grafts” section of the following for pix of what successful grafts look like:


I feel your pain. That’s happened to my McIntosh Apple as well as some of my Contender peaches. Not completely girdled but almost. I removed the apple tree placing it in a container while replacing it with a new McIntosh and protecting the new tree with deer netting(that works quite well, by the way). smeared some diluted Elmer’s wood glue on the wounds of the newly containered apple tree. We will see if it heals adequately to put it back in the ground this fall or next fall. I have learned to totally protect the young trees with the netting clamped to PVC pipes placed in a square arrangement around each tree. I will leave the netting up for 4-6 seasons until they are well established. If you have completely girdled trees you can try the air layering technique; but, as mentioned by our esteemed colleagues above, you can cut the layered area and plant it but you will erase the graft activity from the new tree. It will grow as a standard and you will be forced to heavily prune each year to control height. If you leave it girdled it might leaf out this season but will die before the end of the year since sap cannot get to and from the crown. The sun has to feed the roots through the leaves and since the connection to the roots is lost…Good luck to you in your efforts.

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All above very good advices. A three year old root has plenty vigor. Assuming you can still identify the graft union I might try two options. One as advised with the bridge graft, the other would be to sever all above the damaged area and use a simple cleft graft to grow a new tree. Apple grows so fast that I would not be surprised if both options give you similar growth over the next few years, but the advantage of the latter is that you get to pick which scaffolds you want to grow. So I would use this option if there is a tree that you are not wild about it’s shape.
Kent, wa

Those are some really nice looking bridge grafts. I suspect they may have been unnecessary. It looks like, at least on the visible side, the vascular cambium may still be intact.

I had a younger apple tree that looked fully girdled by voles. I did some slapdash inarch grafts with a couple of young rootstock. They didn’t really take, that was several years ago. The espalier seems perfectly happy now. In spite of how ugly it looked, I think enough cambium was left intact for it to heal.

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Take pictures of your progress, please!
If it is a cultivar like Granny Smith you can still buy a grafted tree this season… If it is an heirloom from your actual Granny: I suggest you top graft it somewhere in about 3 or 4 places. Next season, graft to a whip… Just do not accidentally prune it off latter… A friend of mine once did that with a variegated sport he was fond of… Not me though, I am not that stupid…