I have a small peach tree planted in my yard just north of the city. Tree is maybe 5 ft tall ( we bought & planted it 3 years ago). This winter rabbits have hewed the lower branches. When we noticed, we wrapped the branches in foil. After the next snowfall, he rabbits have moved up and chewed the bark around the entire circumference of the tree. Is there anything I can do to save this tree?
How unfortunate! lets hope we can save your tree.
Bark completely removed around the trunk or roots by gnawing of the rodents will girdle the tree and cause death or severe plant weakening. The lack of bark prevents the necessary nutrients from travelling up the trunk to the stems and leaves. Effectively, the ‘road’ has been wiped out. You will need to bridge the chewed areas by grafting new bark to the trunk. I have attached a link with detailed instructions on how to repair the tree. The article is from the University of New Mexico. The second link, from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, provides some additional information and diagrams on how the grafting should be done. The combination of both documents should give you the information required. This procedure should be done in early spring.
Because your tree is now in a weakened state, it is important to follow good cultural practises while the tree is repairing itself. Insure the tree gets adequate water and watch for any nutrient deficiencies. A tell-tale sign of whether a tree is girdled is the lack of leaves are the upper most tips of the tree branches. Watch for this over the next few seasons.
In order for history not to repeat itself, purchase rabbit guards, a vinyl cylinder that can be inserted around the tree trunk or wrap the trunk with a mesh screen but make sure it is not too tightly wrapped as the tree could grow around it.