Winterizing Trees and Shrubs

Knowing how to winterize trees and shrubs can help the most susceptible types to get through a harsh winter and return with vigorous health and growth in the spring. This is true in northern climates, but even in moderate regions some shrubs can use the help provided by proper winterizing practices. This lawn care guide provides proven tips for winterizing trees and shrubs.

Prune Branches in the Fall
Autumn is the best time to prune trees and shrubs and to cut back growth of ornamental grasses. This will ensure that new growth can get started as early as possible in late winter and into spring. Pruning trees and branches in the fall gives winter’s snow and ice fewer weak branches to cling to, something that can lead to the branch being stripped off the tree or broken. These wounds to the tree or shrub do not heal well. A clean, 45-dgree pruning cut is much preferred.

Rake Beds Around Shrubbery
Whole leaves hold moisture and can be a source of mold and diseases that harm trees and shrubs. They are fine as a covering for the vegetable garden but not for beds that hold shrubs. Adding 1-2 inches of compost to the beds, instead of leaves, can have a beneficial effect for the shrubs by insulating the roots and providing food for when the plants start to wake up in late winter and spring.

Wrap Delicate Trees and Shrubs for Winter
Burlap or specialized tree wrap can be used to prevent windburn from harming small evergreens and arborvitae. Use large sections and wrap the tree from top to bottom. Trees that are less than 8 feet tall and shrubs less than 6 feet tall are in the greatest jeopardy from damage during the winter.

Cover Trees and Shrubs Near the House
Falling snow and ice from the roof, along with a heavy downfall of icy runoff, can severely damage plants near your home. You’ll need something stronger than burlap for these trees and shrubs. Many homeowners build plywood A-frames or lean-tos over them to give them the strong, durable protection that they need. No, these plant huts don’t look all that great, but they are preferred to having to replace shrubbery in the spring or trying to nurture severely damaged plants back to health.

Pile Dirt, Mulch or Straw Around Roots
Dirt is a better insulator than mulch. It also drains water better and won’t hold moisture against the lower trunks of trees and shrubs, something that can produce rot damage. Straw is an excellent insulator, used for years in the walls of homes. Pile the dirt, straw or mulch over the roots to a height of 3-4 inches. Keep it several inches from the trunk of the tree to avoid issues with mold and rot. The roots should be covered to a distance of 1-2 feet from the trunk, depending on the size of the plant. Wait until the autumn rainy season is over and remove the pile once the worst of winter is past – certainly by the time the spring thaw begins.

When adding new trees and shrubs to your landscape, be sure to find out whether or not they are hardy and suited to your climate. If it they are not, you’ll have to plan to give them extra TLC before winter hits. When your winterize trees and shrubs that are endangered by the low temperatures, high winds, snow and ice of winter weather, you’re protecting your investment and the beauty of your landscape.

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