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Protecting trees in winter

How To Protect Newly Planted Trees From Frost

November 7, 2019
Topics

One of the joys of planting a new tree is getting to experience all the “firsts.” The first spring bud break, the first fall color change, or the first flush of tasty fruit.

And then there’s your tree’s first few winters. Frankly, they can be tough to get through. Young trees are much more vulnerable to cold weather damage than mature ones, so they need extra help from you to bear the elements.

Below, get tips on protecting newly planted trees and shrubs from frost damage.

Best Way To Protect Trees From Frost

The key to protecting newly planted trees from winter damage is shielding them from harsh elements—from the top of the canopy down to the roots.

Fruit trees and any trees with thin bark are especially vulnerable to an issue called sun-scald. During a warm winter day, tree bark heats up, causing the tissue under the bark to take a quick break from dormancy. But as soon as the sun sets and freezing temperatures swoop in, that tissue under the bark freezes to death. As a result, large, sunken areas develop on the bark.

And, sadly, the damage doesn’t stop there. Freezing temps can also damage a fruit tree’s buds, making it harder for the tree to produce fruit next spring.

But, if you’re proactive, protecting young fruit trees in the winter is possible. Before temperatures drop, do this:

  1. Wrap the tree’s trunk with a plastic tree guard or any other opaque protective tree wrap you find at your garden store. This will protect the tree from sun scald.
  2. Use a frost shield for fruit trees, also known as an anti-transparent. Spraying fruit tree canopies with frost shield coats the tree with a protective film that helps minimize moisture loss.

How To Protect Newly Planted Shrubs From Frost

Oftentimes we plant shrubs to create a privacy screen around our yards. But of course, those shrubs need to be in good health to do their job!

Protect shrubs against winter injury by taking these few steps in the fall:

  1. Thoroughly water your shrubs all the way up until the ground freezes. Here’s how much water newly planted trees and shrubs need.
  2. Seal in moisture by covering your shrub’s bed in a 2-to-4-inch layer of mulch.
  3. Wrap shrubs in loose material like burlap to shield them from harsh wind. Here are two ways to wrap your shrubs before winter.

What Temperature To Cover Plants

Most plants are just fine as long as the temperature is 30 degrees F or higher. Freeze damage can happen when the temperature drops down to the mid-to-low-twenties, and plants are definitely at risk when temps sink under 20 degrees.

To be safe, protect your plants with tree guards or burlap before the temperature is consistently below 30 degrees.

How To Protect Plants From A Late Frost

No trees respond well to a sudden temperature drop, but newly planted trees can really take a hit if mild springtime elements abruptly turn cold. (If you didn’t know, here’s why trees do not appreciate fluctuating temperatures.)

Planning ahead, and having tools like mulch and burlap on hand, can help with the shock of a late spring frost. To protect trees and shrubs from a sudden shift in weather, follow these steps:

  1. Keep an eye on the forecast to track any expected drops in temperature.
  2. The day before a freezing day, thoroughly water your plant.
  3. Mulch to lock in moisture and prevent frost heaving. In a nutshell, frost heaving is when soil thaws and freezes over and over, causing roots to lift up above ground and become exposed to injuring, cold weather. This is a particular problem for young trees during their first couple winters, since their roots are still shallow.
  4. For extra protection, carefully cover the plant with burlap (here’s how!) or a bed sheet if it’s small enough. Be sure to remove that cover first thing the next morning so your plant doesn’t overheat.

When To Remove Tree Wrap

Protective tree wraps aren’t meant to stay on all year. Here’s how you know it’s time to take off tree wrap in spring.

Did your evergreen shrub turn brown in winter? Here’s how to spot and prevent evergreen winter burn.

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