Posted on April 14, 2016 @ 02:00:00 PM by Paul Meagher
One itch that I wanted to scratch involves protecting young apple trees and vines on my farm from damage caused by string trimmers. I was also looking for a way to speed up the job of trimming away the grass and weeds that grow around their base, ideally avoiding alot of hand weeding. I have used white plastic collars to protect my apple trees from rodents but I don't trust them to protect against string trimmers as the plastic is too thin, too tight to the tree, and has exposed areas between the coils of plastic. I researched the issue online and a fellow in a forum mentioned that he used Big O drainage pipe to protect his trees from string trimmers. I took this idea and ran.
I purchased 150 feet of 4 inch Big O drainage pipe to use for making my tree guards. I figure if I don't end up using it for my tree guards I can find a use for it it's intended purpose as drainage pipe. I also had a large coil of heavy gauge wire that was given to me that I wanted to use to make some pegs to hold the tree collars in place. This is what the parts of my tree guard design looks like so far.
When I snipped my wire into pieces using bolt cutters, I used an anvil to flatten and shape the wire into L-shaped pegs.
Finally, this is what my tree guard prototype looks like on an apple tree. Note that I made a slit in the Big O pipe so I could wrap it around the tree.
From this exercise, I learned that under certain conditions I need longer pegs to get a better bite into the ground. I'll experiment with creating longer pegs and how they perform under different ground conditions.
Unfortunately, I didn't have any string trimmers that I wanted to start as I've had them in storage for 4 months and didn't have fresh mixed gas readily available to use. That will be the next test of my prototype.
The motivation for prototyping a tree guard came to me when I started to think this might be a good idea and realized that my progress would be stalled unless I could build a prototype to begin testing it. The prototype provided me with some useful feedback about peg sizing, how easy it is to make the plastic collars (handsaw is fast but not precise without a jig) and how easy it is to make the L-shaped pegs (the bottleneck in the process). I still have some prototype testing to do in terms of seeing how the collar handles contact with my Stilhl string trimmer. If that works out, maybe I'll try to figure out a process for making L-shared pegs faster from a heavy gauge coil of wire (weights 250-300 lbs).
My brother suggested that I put something inside the Big O pipe to eliminate the need for hand weeding (e.g., gravel? geotextile?) or to protect the tree or vine from pests such as slugs (diatomaceous earth?). Consider this an opensource farm hack and if you come up with any better ideas for protecting young trees and vines from string trimmers let me know.