My fingers are so cold that they are numb and I realise that it would be a good idea to stop trying to fix the tree guards to the stakes when I see blood on the cable ties.
I decided, after much deliberation, to use individual tree guards to protect the trees since we know there are deer in the area. They don’t come in to the garden and munch the plants so I’m hoping they won’t be too much of a problem in the field – but of course there’s every chance this won’t be the case, so the trees must be protected until I know for sure.
The guards are not ideal and the chosen solution was selected as a result of budget and, probably, inexperience. It is a rigid plastic mesh with 3cm holes which comes on a roll. I have been cutting lengths of 1.5m to surround each trunk with an 20cm tube. The mesh is rolled width-ways on arrival but has to be re-rolled length-ways to form the guard. The mesh does not like to roll a new way. It is stiff and the ends are scratchy and sharp.
The 20cm diameter also doesn’t allow for any branches to grow outwards (except through holes in the mesh) but I imagine that somehow the guard can protect the trunk and the branches will come over the top, or I can at least cut holes for the branches if the mesh holes aren’t big enough. Hopefully this will all be enough to keep the trees alive until I find out if we have to erect a deer fence around the orchard at great expense…