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Tree and Shrub Winter Protection

November 9, 2020
Written by Aaron

If you’ve got a newly planted tree, or perhaps some more delicate trees and shrubs that are sensitive to frost and winter burn, it’s a good idea to provide them with some protection from the elements during the coldest months. Cold damage can lead to some pretty unsightly results, and it can potentially limit growth the following spring. Here’s everything you need to know about protecting trees and shrubs from the harshest conditions we often face during a cold January in Ontario.

Why Is It Important to Provide Protection for Trees and Shrubs?

Cold temperatures paired with harsh winds aren’t fun to experience without a warm jacket, so you can imagine how it must feel for those poor trees on the coldest days of the year! Evergreen trees and shrubs can get “burnt” from cold winds combined with direct sun, resulting in browned needles and foliage. This is because they’re still releasing moisture from their leaves, but they aren’t getting much moisture back in return since the ground is frozen, so they’re quite susceptible to drying up. So, if you want the evergreens to stay evergreen, you’re gonna need to call in some backup!

trees covered for winter

Here in Southern Ontario, we love our fruit trees, but these cultivars can be especially sensitive to the cold. Fluctuations between cold and warm can also confuse the tree and cause it to fall out of sync with its natural acclimatization, which can weaken its defences against cold.

If you have any evergreen trees or shrubs that are close to the road, it’s especially important to wrap them up to protect them from salt spray.

 

Cold damage on trees, such as cracking bark, root injury, or trunk splitting, often isn’t apparent until temperatures rise again, so you may not even realize your trees are injured until it’s well into the growing season. Projections show that we’re in for a pretty cold January this year, so if we want to ensure good fruit production for 2021, it’s a good idea to take the time to protect your fruit trees.

How to Protect Trees from Cold Weather

The simplest way to protect trees and shrubs from the cold is through wrapping. Simple burlap secured with twine is a common solution, but you can also purchase special thermal tree wraps that are made to hold up all through the season, through rain, snow, and blustery winds. Putting up a windbreak can also help to ease the harshness of the wind, especially if you have a sprawling property with no fence or few trees.

Young trees are also at risk for having their bark gnawed off by hungry mice and rabbits from December onward, when available food sources are scarce. Purchase tree guards to wrap around the trunks, as this will help to protect the bark and provide a little extra insulation. Opt for a solid wrap, not a netted one, as small rodents can pass through the holes easily. Wrapping shrubs with fabric or “shrub jackets” can also help to prevent hungry deer from chowing down.

tree with mulch around base

Applying a layer of mulch across the soil surface around the bases of your trees and shrubs will help to further insulate the roots and regulate temperature, which is especially helpful when the weather is fluctuating between warm and cold. We recommend using a natural mulch, like shredded pine bark that’s free from artificial dyes. Be sure you don’t pile the mulch up in a mound around the base of the plant, as this can encourage bacterial growth. Just spread an even layer of a few inches, and you’ll be good to go.

If you have any evergreen trees or shrubs that are close to the road, it’s especially important to wrap them up to protect them from salt spray. Salt is often sprinkled across the road to help melt snow and improve traction, but it can severely burn our plants.

When Should I Wrap My Trees for Winter? 

While cold tolerance tends to vary quite a bit between plant species, generally, it’s a good idea to start bringing in some protective measures once temperatures are hovering around 0–4°C. Wrap your trees up before they get covered in ice and snow, and apply some mulch before the ground freezes up.

For your trees that aren’t wrapped and remain exposed, you don’t necessarily have to remove the piled up snow from their branches, unless it’s a huge amount of snow or the branches are newer and more delicate. Don’t try to remove frozen ice from branches, as this can often lead to more harm than good.

If you have any questions or concerns about protecting newly planted trees and shrubs, or if you have landscape plants that have endured previous cold damage, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts here at Eising! We’re always happy to help.

As always, we have home delivery and curbside pickup options available for any tools, supplies, or new plants you may need over the holidays, so feel free to pick up the phone and place an order!

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