This being the time of year that Heirloom Orchardists will take an early spring stroll through their fruit grove, I thought it would be appropriate to post this April 1888 account, published in the magazine Orchard and Garden:
"Some years ago I saw a farmer working away at the base of a tree that had been girdled by rabbits the previous winter. His practical ingenuity, unaided by pomological knowledge or experience, gained for him the victory. He cut from the last year's growth of the same tree three curved cions, sharpened them at both ends, and inserted them in slits made for the purpose in the bark, above and below the girdled spot, covering the connections with a home-made wax, looking like shoemaker's wax, and succeeded in "circumventing the varmints." I saw the tree afterwards, and it did not show that it ever had been barked."
It's called a bridge graft. It can be a saviour for the Orchardist who finds winter damage to a prized tree, caused by rabbits or mice.
But there's a problem.
Bridge grafting is done only when absolutely necessary. And it's a good idea to have experience doing it because when it's needed, you don't want the grafts to fail. Here's the catch: no one ever wants to have to do it. At that moment, you're all distressed, anxious, and generally ticked-off that you didn't wrap your trees with bark protectors the previous fall, as you'd intended to do. You're not really in the proper mood to learn a new craft. So, when's the best time to learn?
Well, I don't know the solution to this dilemma. But find some comfort in the resiliency of your trees. Speaking of cleft grafts, the orchardist Henry F. French of Exeter, New Hampshire, stated the following in his April 1851 correspondence to The Horticulturalist:
"The work is often done carelessly. Limbs of two or more inches in diameter are cut off, the scions inserted, the grafting cement is spread on, and no further attention given to the matter. And yet it is very rare to see a stock dead, or imperfectly healed, even under the rudest treatment..."
I suppose if you have the time, you can experiment. Here's a pretty good explanation on the procedure of Bridge Grafting, as published in 1926, by the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture:
"Trees injured by rabbits, mice and collar rot can often be saved by bridge grafting. The injured surface of the tree should first be trimmed to a clean, smooth edge at both the top and bottom. Select scion wood of the same variety that is of sufficient length to bridge the area. The base of the scion should be cut straight across and beveled edges about one and onehalf inches long should be made. After measuring the scion against the injured surface to determine the length of scion required, trip the top in the same manner. The bark of the tree above and below the wound is split and the edges are loosened. The beveled ends of the scion should then be inserted in the slits, with the beveled edges on the inside, against the wood of the tree. After being pushed into place, the scion should lay reasonably close to the trunk. Following this it is well to tack both ends of the scion to the tree with a slender thread. Additional scions should be set at intervals of about one and one-half inches until the girdled portion is entirely covered. Both ends of the scions should be thoroughly waxed to prevent drying out."
In short, bridge grafting is a good trick to learn. One that I hope you never have to learn.