Trees and shrubs that grow in the wild are already prepared for winter, nature’s way. And even though an individual specimen may struggle here and there, the native plants do quite well despite what the weather may bring. But that’s not always the case with the woody plants we grow in our gardens and yards. Bringing in non-native species provides a wondrous variety that most of us would not like to do without, but sometimes they need our help to get through the stresses of winter.
Here’s what I do to prepare my favorite trees and shrubs to withstand winter weather.
Tip #1 – Remove damaged, dead, or diseased limbs
Flickr Photo by P_Linehan
This helps contain any damage or disease. I recently bought a powered pole pruner, which makes chores like this so much easier. If I can reach the branches with hand shears, loppers, or a pole pruner I do this myself. Otherwise I call an arborist for help.
If any of these limbs were diseased in any way or infested with pests, I burn them to prevent the problem from making its way back into the healthy plant.It’s important to wait until the leaves are off the trees to do this chore. Why? Because pruning in late summer or early fall before the trees have gone dormant stimulates growth. New growth at that time of year will not have time to harden off before winter and will die.
Tip #2 – Remove debris from under fruit trees
This is particularly important if your trees or fruit were affected by insects or diseases. My pears, for example, had curculio beetles, which badly damaged the fruit. Destroying the fallen, damaged fruit can help control the infestation for next year.Don’t put the damaged fruit in your compost pile. Like the diseased limbs, you should burn it if you can.
Tip #3 – Protect plants from deer and rodents
Sometimes they only take harmless nibbles, lightly pruning your shrubs, but deer and rodents can wreak havoc in the winter. If deer are plentiful where you live you may need to put wire mesh cages around young plants and plants that deer favor. You might also try a spray-on deer repellent. I heard that bars of hotel soap will keep deer away, but I don’t know if that’s true.As for rodents, they will nest in your mulch and chew stems and branches that are under the snow. To prevent this, be sure to keep mulch at least four inches from the base of any plants. I use plastic tree guards around my most vulnerable shrubs and trees. I store the guards in my patio storage chestduring the summer.
Tip #4 – Protect plants from sun scald
When they are in sunny locations young trees, newly planted or transplanted trees, and trees with thin bark (linden, maple, plum, cherry, and others) are particularly vulnerable to sun scald. You can protect them by wrapping the trunks with tree wrap and plastic tree guards. The light color reflects the sun, keeping the bark at a relatively even temperature. Put the wrap on in the fall and take it off in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Tip #5 – Prevent discoloration of evergreens
Sun and wind and untimely cold temperatures can cause the needles of evergreens to turn brown or become bleached. This is a particular problem for yews and hemlocks in exposed locations. You can construct a burlap screen on the south, southwest, and windward sides of your evergreens to protect them. I don’t like the way burlap screens look, so I cut pine boughs and prop them up around the evergreens that are susceptible to sun scald. I use my Christmas tree in the same way after I take it down.
Tip #6 – Apply mulch
Flickr Photo by marioanima
Mulch keeps the ground from freezing and thawing, which can damage roots, especially of newly planted or transplanted trees. Freezing and thawing can even heave plants out of the ground, like the frost heaves in the road. Apply about six inches of mulch after the ground freezes to keep the ground temperature steady. As already mentioned, keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunks and stems to prevents pests from damaging your plants.I use a combination of chopped leaves and seasoned wood chips for mulch because that’s what I have available. Straw makes good mulch, but don’t use hay because it can have weed seeds.
Stan Horst lives, works, and gardens in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A former cabinetmaker, Stan likes to enjoy his garden from the comfort of his Kingsley Bates teak outdoor furniture. He also publishes a website to help people find the perfect bench (www.betterbenches.com). In his free time Stan spends time in the great outdoors with his wife and two teenage children.
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Posted by stanhorst
on November 29, 2011. Filed under Garden, Home, The List.
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