Winter weather—cold, wind, ice, and snow—can be hard on exposed trees and shrubs, and especially hard on young trees and shrubs. Their bark and branches are still thin, and their root systems are not yet well established, which leaves them vulnerable to the elements. But never fear! There are steps you can take now to help protect your landscaping from the upcoming harsh weather.
How to Protect Trees and Shrubs Over Winter
Water: Continue watering your young trees and shrubs up until the ground freezes. Newly planted trees and shrubs, as well as established ones, will tolerate harsh winter conditions better when they are well watered in fall. Extra water for evergreens is especially important at this time of year.
Mulch: Using mulch around your trees and shrubs helps insulate the soil and tree roots from extreme cold and also seals in moisture. Add a fresh layer of organic material such as compost, wood chips or shredded leaves and bark. Keep mulch from touching the trunks to prevent rot and other diseases. Be sure to extend the mulch just beyond the tree’s dripline. If you live in a zone where the ground freezes in winter, wait until the soil is frozen before applying mulch.
Staking/Wrapping: Consider staking your young trees if they are in a windy spot. Use weather-resistant materials such as rubber or canvas to attach your tree to stakes. Be sure that the trunk will be allowed to sway freely to encourage strong trunk growth. Wrap shrubs loosely with burlap to protect them from the wind and cold.
Pests: Small rodents like rabbits and voles love to feed on young bark. They’ll graw through the thin bark to the growing green tissue underneath. You can cage the trunk with chicken wire to discourage rodents and to keep deer from rubbing. Be sure to protect the trunk above the snow line so small pests can’t sit on the snow and chew the bark.
Broken Branches: Ice and heavy snow can cause young branches to break. After a snowfall, gently remove snow with a broom using an upward motion. Prune broken branches as needed.
No Salt: Avoid using rock-salt ice melt treatments near new trees. Salt inhibits tree roots from absorbing water and essential nutrients. You can protect tender roots with an application of Spotless Lawn. Applying this product in the late fall protects against salt and weather damage.