The main threats to our woody perennials in the winter time are deer nibbles on the tips of branches and voles girdling the bark at the base of trees and shrubs. For almost all of our young fruit trees we protect the base of the trunk with either hardware cloth or window screen guards. However, guards can only protect so much of a trunk and heavy snow pack sometimes makes the level of vole travel above the gaurd. Also, multi-branched shrubs such as blueberries can’t really be wrapped with gaurds, leaving them vulnerable to hungry sharp toothed rodents. We are trying another approach to deter browsers above and below: bone salve. This stinky goo made from the fire roasted marrow of bones is an old time Austrian practice brought to the attention of gardeners recently by permaculturist Sepp Holzer. He claims that a tree painted with bone salve will deter browsers for up to 10 years without repeated application! That is a strong claim. I’ll be happy if it works for 1 year and becomes an annual ritual. We made some bone salve in 2014, but didn’t get around to applying it until there was already some deer browsing and too much snow on the ground to get it painted on the tree bases where it was really needed. It did seem to stop deer browsing, but it was a challenge to tell for sure where tips had already been nipped. So this year we have made a fresh batch, and have it fully applied to branch tips and trunks and we’ll see if damage is decreased or stopped over the winter. We invited the NEK VT Permauclture Group over for the bone salve making process, and several other participants will be trying out the bone salve on their own properties as well. Here is the basic process of making bone salve:
We’ll let you know how the experiment goes come spring!