SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. — South Sioux City Community Orchard has seen thousands of apples harvested, but this year they've had a setback.
Damage to the apple trees caused by hungry rabbits has the orchard digging up the trees and building a new plan.
"My mouth dropped because we've never had any damage like that," said Carol Larvick, Extension Educator at the University of Nebraska, and master gardener for the South Sioux City Community Orchard.
Gene Maffit, Parks Director in South Sioux City said, "Rabbits couldn't find enough to eat. So they found our orchard and they pretty well took care of all of our apple trees in the orchard."
Back in 2014, they planted 208 trees. They've been replacing many over the years with about 175 trees remaining.
But this winter, the rabbits ripped off all the bark near the trunk. "They've actually girdled the bottoms of the trees where they chewed all the bark off all the way around the tree and all the way up about three or four feet. So these trees are not going to make it because it exposed the cambium layer in the tree and that's where the nutrients move up and down inside of the trees," Maffit said.
Larvick added she was shocked to hear about the damage, "All of a sudden they were all girdled and they would be gone. I was really sad."
But there is hope for re-growth, and there is quite a bit of work to do.
"It kind of sparked the idea of how can we make the orchard better?" Larvick said.
Thousands of Siouxlanders have experienced the orchard and its events. All are organized by volunteers.
"There's a lot of work that goes on in an apple orchard and it's mostly done by volunteers and a few city staff," Larvick said.
Gardeners are working on plans to re-organize the orchard to have better open houses and events, now with plans to plant new trees.
"We won't have apples to hand out to people for a number of years now. Apple trees will take three, four, or five years to actually produce, and then to produce enough to invite people out maybe three more years. Past that," Larvick said.
Planting those new trees will come in the fall after cleanup.
We will continue to provide updates on the South Sioux City orchard and share the community clean-up events on Siouxland News as they announce them.
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