Cold Weather Preparation
Take a look around your yard and examine your landscape plants and trees during the late summer and early autumn. Healthy plants are more likely to survive the harsh winter conditions. If you have trees or other greenery that struggle due to insufficient nutrients or water, it will be vulnerable as the weather gets colder. Plants with damage from disease or insects are also more fragile. Begin your winter strategy by taking the following precautions:
- Stop pruning after midsummer. While trimming can improve the health of your trees, it also stimulates growth. This means that there may be tender new growth at first frost, which is easily damaged.
- Water plants thoroughly through the Fall until the ground freezes. The goal is to ensure the water penetrates 12 to 18 inches deep.
- Fertilize for the last time of the season about six weeks before the first frost.
Deciduous Tree Injuries
Trees and shrubs that lose their leaves go dormant during the winter. If you have mature plantings that fare well in the area, they probably need no extra protection. However, young or newly planted shrubs can benefit from some extra care.
- Young bark is tender and easily damaged by local wildlife, such as rabbits and mice. Protect the trunks with tree guards made of wire or plastic.
- After the ground freezes, add bark mulch, pine straw or other insulating mulch in a three to four-inch layer around the base of the tree. Leave several inches between the trunk and the mulch to discourage chewing rodents and rot.
- Sunscald generally occurs on the south or southwest side of young trees. During the winter, the sun can heat the bark, which stimulates activity. When the sun goes down or is blocked, the bark’s temperature drops rapidly, killing the newly active tissue. Wrap young or thin-barked trees such as maple, mountain ash, linden, honey locust and fruit trees. Use white commercial tree wrap or plastic tree guards.
Broadleaf Evergreens and Conifers
Unlike deciduous trees, evergreens and conifers don’t go fully dormant. Their growth only slows in the cold weather. This makes it crucial that they have plenty of water whenever the ground isn’t frozen. Heavy snow, drying winter winds and deer are the most common causes of damage during the winter. You can take steps that prevent them from becoming discolored or brown.
- When planting hemlock, yew and similar trees, put them on the north and northeast side of buildings or in areas protected from the winter sun and wind.
- Use burlap or similar material as a barrier on the windward, south and southwest sides of evergreens. Don’t cover the entire tree. You can leave the top open for light and air penetration.
- Prop Christmas tree greens or pine boughs over the evergreens or against them to offer natural protection.