The damage I do with my tractor/mower!

OK, so it many ways this is a VERY embarrassing post…its one thing to make an occasional careless error and bump and tree with a mower, but I have done untold damage to a ridiculous number of my fruit trees! I mow with a tractor and a pull behind, PTO driven finishing mower, and I always get in a hurry or try to mow too close to my trees or both! I should be too ashamed of my repeated carelessness to show these, but I also think they are a little bit interesting and may give others who scrape their trees some hope. I say that because in each and every one of these photos showing damage-severe in some cases- the tree is alive and well and most are more than a year old. Certainly when a tree is sending up all its nutrients and water using only a small piece of undamaged bark it isn’t good for it and in the long run is bound to cause problems. But I find it utterly amazing that none of the trees in these photos has shown any reduction in vigor or other bad effects (YET) and some are several years old. I just think nature is amazing how it can adapt and overcome hardships like these. I’ve always thought about doing bridge grafts on some but so far they just haven’t been needed, bad as things look. Anyway, these are all different trees and are are alive and (seemingly) well. Bottle is for scale.

This one is fresh

Look close at the one below and you can see there is only one small remaining, undamaged area connecting roots to tree- probably only about 20 % of total circumfrance is left and tree has just turned it into a pipeline! This happened 2 years ago!

Yes, this one is INSANE. Its a combination of mower damage years ago followed by rot on this very old peach tree. But it produced a huge crop this year! Can you believe that!!!

THis happened last season and tree did fine and still is doing fine! Probably has the cambium and bark cut on all but 30% of circumfrance. But once again, it just swelled up the remaining area and pipes everything right up the tree using that tiny uncut strip!

Again, this damage happened at least a year ago and tree is doing fine. I’m just amazed that trees can live like this!

THis one looks minor compared to others, but its still bad:

This one is bad and it happened this year, but its been 2.5 months and tree has shown no signs of stress or reduced vigor!!

This damage happened 3 years ago but tree is doing great and produced a nice crop this year! Of course you can see it is oozing and seems to be healing a lot worse than many of the others, but so far the canopy is still green and vigorous!

OK, let the ribbing begin! No, I don’t drink and mow. Yes, I mow too fast. Yes, I have heard of trunk protectors/wraps and have even used some black corrugated pipe on some of my trees. Cant say why not more! haha I also know one of these days most of these will probably get broken by wind or die from starvation or have other problems. But I’ll accept it when it happens, meanwhile I’m enjoying the remaining years of production however many or few they may be.

I hope this serves as an example of what fruit trees can take and keep going. Maybe others in the future who scrape or damage a tree trunk can find this thread and not panic when they knock off a little bark off a tree.

Anyone else ever do dumb things like this to their tree(s)? Its ok if you don’t! ha


Looks familiar! I have actually mowed some small fruit trees to the ground…
I have (had) a fuyu persimmon that I mowed and the rootstock came back up as a bush and it makes fruit every year. The weed eater has also eaten small fruit tree trunks. What I damage the most is my irrigation system. D

TheCityMan, We have all been there and done that to an extent. Just curious to know if you have ever tried a zero turn? In my opinion its much easier to maneuver around versus a tractor type mower. But with the weed eater just try to discipline myself to leave a few inches and get it by hand. That being said trees can be quite resilient! Great growing, Randy/GA

This year - string trimmer: 1 peach tree: 0

A vine I didn’t see… Before I could blink it had wrapped around and slammed the trimmer head into the tree. Note to self, maintain even further separation than I thought was necessary…

Happens! I mow with a 6 foot 3 point hitch finish mower. They take some time getting used to turning radius when someone is used to mid mount mowing decks. The first time i mowed with it I hit a really nice Crispin apple and nearly girdled it. It survived and healed fine. Last year i tapped a pluot tree. This year however… i got the leveling wheel caught on my deer exclusion fence and broke a really nice granny smith apple off at the graft union. I planted it thia spring as a whip and it had grown about 2 feet in height and had beautiful scaffold branches established. Like a punch to the gut. Lesson learned. I will be laying down a wider herbicide strip next spring to hopefully avoid anymore damage in the future.

Yep, why I use trunk protectors. More for the string trimmer than the mower.

you’re brave to post it. what is the second-to-last tree? i don’t recognize its bark at all.
weed whippers are my biggest downfall. I have sheets of copper flashing bent around some trees and the blueberry bushes, but the trees outgrow them and if I get too close, I whip the uncovered area. I also knock the guard away with the mower, then come through with the whipper. I usually try to control myself. I’m pretty bad for cutting new blueberry shoots off by accident with the hand pruner, actually. i grab a handful of weeds, cut, and then find a year’s healthy blueberry growth in my hand.

That’s some serious mower blight :wink: As mentioned it’s brave to post ones mistakes out there for anyone to dump on you, as if they themselves haven’t made all kinds of mistakes.

I will say that even though your trees are still producing well, the damage will most certainly shorten the life of the trees. Just remember a little grass/weeds close to the trunk doesn’t hurt anything, as long as the weeds don’t grow up through the canopy.

I shouldn’t be laughing. Sorry. :rofl::rofl::rofl:
When I see my husband get on the tractor I have a panic attack! He has never run over any of our fruit trees, though! @thecityman - You are dangerous!!!

We keep increasing the mulched and sprayed areas around the trees - to try to make sure that mowers do not get close enough to do damage. The lawn service that mows our yard and orchard still manage to snag limbs and tear up plants. It happens.

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Owing to a mental lapse in gathering all tools from the orchard before running the riding mower, I heard a couple of sharp metallic clunks and saw I left behind a crowbar I use for poking holes to put fertilizer granules at the drip line of some trees.

Fortunately, I didn’t fracture the blade housing as I did when I hit a rock on another part of the lawn a few years back – that required a call to bring it into the shop for a welding repair. There was damage on on side of one of the three mower blades, which I cleaned up with an angle grinder and I may yet replace the blade.

It also took a chunk out of one corner of the blade end of the crowbar, which will be an ongoing reminder that I should stand up tools against a tree or develop some kind of system like counting surgical sponges to account for tools.

My question is, should I disclose this incident to my wife?

I don’t get close at all to the trees with the mower because my wife insists that I leave low branches she can reach when picking. I finish in the orchard with a string trimmer.

I have anti-vole guards of “hardware cloth” screens on all the tree trunks after one winter when I had to take a crash course in bridge grafting. The worse I do with the string trimmer is damage those guards, which is work for me in the fall for more replacements.

One unforced error, however, was with a roto tiller I was using to prepare ground to plant asparagus. I left the motor running because it is an old machine and hard to start – I had the shop replace the ignition but balked at the $200 carb rebuild. With my back to it with the motor at idle and the pulleys in the disengaged position, it started walking and collided with a plum tree. Ouch! You don’t want to wound stone fruit, if you can help it.

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Diabolical tiller!

The riding mower is 30 years old and has a manual gear shift that can be left in neutral, so it is pretty safe that it won’t go on its own. Usually, there is enough rolling resistance, but when I park it in the garage, I block a wheel with a piece of wood and I put a wooden saw horse behind it to remind me that the wheel is blocked, although I will admit to running into the saw horse at least once.

The rototiller is disengaged by releasing the tension on pullies, but there can be enough friction in the slipping belts that it can start moving on its own.

As commented on this thread, a person cannot be too careful with mowers and other machines in the orchard.

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What incident?



I use herbicide to maintain a 6’ wide “no grass zone” around trees and other obstacles that I don’t want to hit with the mower, and anywhere I might have to “edge.” I have to apply it a couple of times during mowing season to ensure there is no temptation to mow the NGZ. I suppose you could also achieve the same thing using a mulch pile. I can’t as it becomes a party zone for voles, who do as much damage as the mower.

That really is the perfect solution, and I actually do the same thing- spray weed killer around my trees so I don’t have to get so close. My problem is that weed killer only keeps the weeds at bay about 6 weeks, and all the damage about was done when the weeds had returned and before I took time to spray again. I’m always behind on SOMETHING in my orchard, and when its spraying weeds I compensate by mowing closer, and doing damage! I never said I was smart. ha

Blockquote That really is the perfect solution, and I actually do the same thing- spray weed killer around my trees so I don’t have to get so close. My problem is that weed killer only keeps the weeds at bay about 6 weeks, and all the damage about was done when the weeds had returned and before I took time to spray again. I’m always behind on SOMETHING in my orchard, and when its spraying weeds I compensate by mowing closer, and doing damage! I never said I was smart. ha

I’m always behind on something, but over the years, I’ve become an early sprayer. It’s so much easier to keep a tank mixed up and ready to go than deal with a jungle. I do a little bit at a time and try to get the weeds before they are 5" tall. This results in time savings in mowing, tree replacement, finding tools, etc. If it does get out of hand, I leave it until next year and start over. That winter reboot is great.

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I love that! I agree with everything you said, but especially that. ha. In fact, it’s only August and I already have a few spots I’ve been thinking “I’ll let winter take care of that”. Especially where I have Horses tail weeds. Roundup won’t kill them, and once they get pretty big its a huge job to pull or even cut them, so yea…we’ll let winter “reboot” some of those and I’ll try to deal with them next year when they are small and tender!

Anybody use 20% vinegar? On a bright, hot day it will shrivel grasses etc. to the ground. D

They’ll keep. You can cut them off at the ground if you don’t have too many. Let nature work for you - weed after the rains when the ground is soft, spray when it’s hot and dry. I think your hobby farm is a lot bigger than mine :slight_smile: Works for me as I’m old and tired and have more than enough fruit to eat. :yum:

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