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Protecting and Preparing Trees for Winter

Protecting and Preparing Trees for Winter

Homeowners across the state enjoy beautiful shade and ornamental trees in their landscapes. Trees are a wonderful addition to any yard, but they must be properly cared for and maintained in order to keep them healthy and beautiful. This is the time of year where preparations need to begin so trees are properly protected and are ready to handle the coming winter weather.  Here are some helpful tips for preparing trees for winter that can help ensure your trees survive the coming cold.


Importance of Protecting Trees

Many trees used in local landscapes can tolerate freezing temperatures; some even require a short period of full dormancy in order to grow properly. However, young, tender trees and varieties of tropical warm-weather trees, will likely experience winter injury or even death when exposed to freezing temperatures during the winter months. “Temperature fluctuations often occur any time of year. As winter nears, outdoor plants begin to enter their dormancy period. Slowly falling temperatures makes this transition easier. On the other hand, wide temperature swings, and especially sudden plunging and freezing temperatures (early in the transition to dormancy), can be stressful and damaging to plants. Woody plants are the most susceptible. Prolonged winter “warmups” can also be harmful to plants, causing them to emerge prematurely from winter dormancy” (Gardener’s Network).  For sudden plunging temperatures, covering plants with sheets, blankets, or burlap bags can protect them and often offers enough protection to guard against these sudden temperature drops.  This is an important aspect of preparing trees for winter temperatures and environmental influences. Once the cold weather has been stable for a week or two, the trees will be accustomed to the cold and fully in their dormant period and will not need as much protection against the cold.

Tips for Getting Trees Ready for Winter

  1. Stop watering the trees in late fall as this will work to force them to harden off and begin entering the dormant period ahead of winter. Watering too late into the season can keep the branches tender and mist which makes them more prone to freeze damage. Begin watering the plants once weekly in mid-fall and throughout winter as a great way of preparing trees for winter and is something most homeowners either do not know about or do not do and their trees often suffer because of it.
  2. A thick 6-inch layer of high-quality mulch needs to be spread around the base of the tree. Three inches around the trunk needs to be left clear to prevent mold and rot and the mulch needs to extend out to the edge of the canopy of the tree if at all possible. Mulch retains moisture and insulates the root, which helps prevent frost heaving and reduces the chance of cold damages.
  3. Prune back dead and damaged branches as the weather starts to cool. You do not want to do a lot of pruning during active growing seasons or new flushes of growth will emerge and become damaged with the freezes. But you also don’t want to prune weeks before the first cold snap or the exposed area may be damaged. Early fall is the best time to take care of pruning needs.
  4. Wrap the tree trunk as well as the largest of the lower branches to protect them from cold temperatures as well as sunscald. Use a frost cloth or blanket or commercial landscape wrap that can be found at any garden center. Wrap a new tree for two years while it develops thick bark to protect itself and thin bark varieties need to be wrapped for any cold freezes.
  5. Place four wooden stakes around the tree 4 to 6 inches out from the trunk. Wrap 1/4-inch mesh cloth or chicken wire fencing around the stakes to create a barrier of sorts around the tree. Attach the fencing to the stakes with wire or zip ties and ensure it is secure. This step in preparing trees for winter will help to protect the tree against rodents, deer, rabbits, and other animals.
  6. Tie the main branches together on trees with multiple leader branches, such as juniper (Juniperus spp.) and arborvitae (Thuja spp.), using strong fabric, nylon stockings or carpet strips. It is an important step to take in preparing trees for winter. This helps to protect the tree from the damaging effects of heavy snowfall and reduces the chance of snow and ice breaking off branches.
  7. Check your trees on a regular basis during the cold winter months. Keep an eye on the weather leading up to the end of the fall and start of winter so you know when to cover your trees and if you need to step up your care plan. After any major cold snap, check on your trees and look for any signs of damage like cracked bark, weeping areas on the tree, or broken branches. It is an important step that can help keep your tress damage free even in heavy snowfalls.

Contact Country Landscape and Supply

To learn more about preparing trees for winter and what you need to start doing now to get ready, contact us today! The Country Landscape and Supply team is ready to help you with all of your tree and landscape needs this year and for the years to come. Call today for a consultation and let out tree and landscape experts help you take care of your trees and keep them healthy and beautiful following the coming winter. Contact us now to get started! Country Landscape and Supply is here to help you with all of your needs and we offer a wide range of services that can meet any and all needs you may have.