I planted a small tree in early June and animals began chewing on the bark in late June. I know that tree wrap is normally used in the winter, but is it safe to use it in the summer? I don’t want to cause disease problems on the bark.
Rather than using paper tree wrap, try the plastic coiled wrap that is flexible and perforated to allow air circulation. It comes in assorted diameters as well, so you can custom fit it to the current caliper of your tree and allow room for growth. Reputable nursery and garden supply centers carry this product. Nursery stock trees will often already have this flexible coil around the trunk. You only need it about two feet up from the base, which is about the height a rabbit can stretch.
Young deer will sometimes sample bark to see if it’s tasty. But they really prefer new leaf and flower buds. If you have evidence of deer, such as droppings or hoof prints, you may have to resort to spray products such as Deer Off. It is a citrus and peppermint-based spray, which lasts about two to three months. It does not wash off in rain or irrigation cycles. It clings without deforming or adulterating the plant by using vegetable oil as its agent. Deer have much better noses than we do, and they find the peppermint scent and taste unpalatable.
Meadow mice (voles) and rabbits, however, are generally the culprits for chewed bark. Occasionally juvenile groundhogs will also sample young tree bark. (A bit like human babies putting everything in their mouth to get the taste and texture.) Young trees are more succulent and desirable as creatures forage for food for themselves and their broods.
If there are raised tunnels in the vicinity of your tree, then more likely you are dealing with voles. Place three or four simple plastic snap mousetraps baited with a dab of peanut butter around the base of the tree. Check the traps each morning for a week. If the traps are sprung, remove any remains and re-bait them. If done consistently, you may eliminate the entire offending colony within that period. The perforated plastic tree wrap will also deter the rabbits and frustrate the groundhogs. Using both methods should protect your tree from additional damage.