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curses on hardware cloth

Posted by Anonymous User 
Anonymous User
curses on hardware cloth
February 02, 2016 09:22PM
I put up hardware cloth around all my trees right after planting, hoping that the pea stone gravel mulch around the trunks would anchor the material. Unfortunately, in too many cases the cages didn't stay anchored. Often the hardware cloth leaned over and gouged young trunks. Finally, in early winter I went around replacing the poorly anchored cloth with spiral wraps, which I plan to take off once the voles have other stuff to eat in spring.
Man, I hate hardware cloth. It's difficult to work with. Hard to remove and harder to reinstall. I settled upon using two zip ties to get it to stay closed. Can't figure out a good way to make the job easier and so I'm heading in a different direction. Plastic mesh looks like it will have anchoring issues too. So, I'm thinking spiral wraps installed every late autumn and removed in spring.
Anyone have a better plan, or a way to make hardware cloth easier to work with?
Re: curses on hardware cloth
February 02, 2016 11:29PM
Hi Nat,

I recently ordered this plastic trunk guard for the new trees we will be planting in a few months. I also put them on our existing trees and it was VERY easy to work with and cut. I just used twist ties to close them. I tried to find the tree guards with buttons (for closure) that Michael uses in his orchard, as seen in his DVD, but I couldn't locate a source for them but I think this is similar. I did not anchor the tree guards because I imagine wanting them to be moveable for weeding, sucker removal, borer inspection, etc. If you don't anticipate moving your hardware mesh, I really like these landscape staples. I use them for limb spreading but have found them to be very versatile for lots of other things too!

Hope this helps,

Joanne Patton, Squire Oaks Farm
Zone 6A, Northern Virginia

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2016 11:33PM by Joanne Patton.
Re: curses on hardware cloth
February 03, 2016 10:26PM
I have been replacing all my older guards with hardware cloth, and have absolutely no problem with them, but here are some tips for success:

- Fold the top over- the cut ends can dig into the trunk (and all ends will tear your hands up) due to free wire. Tape on edges can help here.
- Cut plenty of width- I like to wrap it around it self, so you can increase its circumference as the tree gains girth. This also allows you to easily close the works with a single piece of wire. I can remove a piece and replace it in seconds.
-It can be cut in a smaller width and spiraled up and between branches, unlike the plastic "net" type guards.

I have liked them because they will last longer than any comparable product. They also are very tolerant of string trimmer, sickle or scythe attack. The coarseness of the screen allows me to see borer damage easily. It can also be picked up at almost any hardware or building supply.

The downsides are that it is stiffer than something like window screen, so you can't mush it tight to form fit. It also is too coarse to keep borers out, where window screen does hamper them a bit. It is stiff, so you have to use some muscle, and it does cut you.

As for the white plastic spiral guards, I feel I have commented on this before, but I believe it to be the worst product on the market for trees. They absolutely cause damage to trunks due to microenvironmental effects, like trapping heat and moisture. They encourage borer damage. They shatter when struck with trimmers and tools. They also do not prevent rodent damage in most cases...rodents can chew through a piece of 3/4 plywood, a mm or two of plastic is ridiculous. Also, my voles have pushed it up, down or aside and munched without issue, often with a pretty spiral chew mark up that 18 inches. I do think they help with sunscald for that little section, and I use our old ones to wrap high on the trunk, above the real guards in areas that bunnies like- but just for the winter months.

In a pinch metal window screen is fine. It is not tolerant of physical damage, but it is readily available, cheap, aluminum will last indefinitely, and it is easy to apply. The girdling that folks experience is from a lack of attention to the orchard, as in paying attention.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: curses on hardware cloth
March 07, 2016 12:37AM
Edited for brevity

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/30/2022 05:45PM by Chris Vlitas.
Re: curses on hardware cloth
March 14, 2016 05:19AM
I've stared folding over the tops of the hardware cloth as per Todd's suggestion and that has helped. The guard is stiffer and less likely to damage the tree trunk. I like/need to be able to get at the base of the trunk and burying the cloth 4-6" then unearthing it and then reburying it seems really challenging.

At least we've had plenty of predators. A family of kestrels, cats, foxes. I love to see a kestrel flying off with a nice meal.
Re: curses on hardware cloth
August 07, 2017 06:11PM
A year late. (I just came across this thread). I use 4" Big-O drain pipe, (the black plastic corrugated material), cut into lengths and slit lengthwise. (Initially I cut them in a spiral. This makes it a pain to get on and off.) I put these on in the fall, and off in the spring, until the trunk gets so big that they will no longer fit, (4"), at which point I figure the bark is too thick for voles and rabbits anyway. There is an interesting side effect: ants frequently build colonies inside the tubes, (which obviously collapse when the tubes are removed, to the strong objection of the ants - wear gloves and tuck your pant legs into your socks.) Todd cited increased borer damage as an effect of spiral tree guards; in those trees with ants nests I have never had any borer damage. My sense is that the ants do not like borers either. And they are small enough to go after them in the tree trunk via their poop holes.

Broomholm Orchard
Zone 5b in Nova Scotia
Re: curses on hardware cloth
December 13, 2017 03:58PM
I have been using tubes of black coated metal windowscreen. We buy 100' rolls of the stuff, 36" wide, and cut it into 15" wide sections, giving us about a 5" tube that I use a length of wire to sew together. We use stakes to hold them upright if the trees are really small, and mud in the bottoms with pea gravel over that. Dead cheap, easy to pull the wire to replace or adjust width, and allows some sunlight in so the trunks can photosynthesize. Thinking of cutting wider, so I can just staple the sides together without losing width, in the interest of saving time when installing.

Tom Kleffman
Re: curses on hardware cloth
March 30, 2018 05:43PM
I'm curious to see that folks are using hardware cloth and other options more than grow tubes - I've been hearing good things about newer (adequately vented) grow tubes. For example, reviews here and here aren't exactly glowing, but do seem encouraging. Major concerns seem to be about weaker root growth (lots of energy going toward fast stem growth in early years instead) - which does seem somewhat counter to the holistic ideal of supporting a truly healthy root system - and mouse/bird incursions.

The general consensus among you all though seems to be to use some sort of mesh, be it hardware cloth or plastic?

Willet, NY (Zone 5a)
100 semi-dwarf trees to be planted April 2018
(Farm name TBA)
Re: curses on hardware cloth
June 16, 2018 06:23PM
You need the right tools for the job and then hardware cloth becomes amazing.

1) Cut the hardware cloth with an angle grinder, it zips right through the material, you follow the grid and you can quickly go back over your cut with the grinder and smooth out any bits that protrude if you need to. A cut with a grinder done in this fashion is very smooth and will not damage your trunk. Lay the cloth over a piece of plywood you don't mind making marks on. You will have a piece of hardware cloth with one side smooth and the other left jagged. Use the jagged side for the ground. Wear safety glasses.

You can get a totally fine angle grinder and a pack of cut off disks from harbor freight for something like $25.00. Once you have an angle grinder, you can pretty much cut anything made of metal you need to cut. A crucial tool to own.

2) Use end nips and wire to close the loop in situ around the tree trunk. End nips are a type of plier that have a flat face. Carpenters use them to pull nails, and they are powerful wire cutters. For the cages, simply stick a small piece of wire through the joined grid in your cage and twist it closed with your end nips. I line up the top first. The orientation of the end nip face is perpendicular to the wire and this makes for an effortless, rapid, and clean finished connection. Cut off the excess twist and do a few more. Three per cage: top ,bottom, middle should do. End nips are a crucial tool to own.

3) For a stake, fashion soil staples from a thicker gauge wire like that used for grape trellis (~9 or 11 gauge) and staple to the ground by pushing them in on either side of the base. I use a kind of upside down "J" shape for these.

Lately, because I have an amount of steel rod stashed away, I've taken to cutting sections of 1/8 or 1/4" thick rod and driving these in on either side of the cage and attaching with the same end nips and wire twist connection.

Very easy, nice and tidy from a craft standpoint, indestructible, re-useable, and fun.

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
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