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How to take care Your Trees and Shrubs in Winters

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As the temperatures start to get colder, so does your trees and shrubs. The winter months can be brutal to outdoor plants if the necessary precautions are not taken before the weather changes to winter. Save yourself the trouble of dealing with damaged — or even dead — greenery next spring by taking the steps to protect those fragile plants now with some simple lawn management tasks. Here are some tips for preventative winter lawn care.

Create a Barrier

One of the best ways to protect your trees and shrubs from the harsh winter temperatures is by creating a barrier from the elements. There are several ways you can do this including adding mulch to the surrounding area, installing a fence around the tree, wrapping the tree trunk with specialty wrap, and covering the shrubs with cloth or plastic when temps reach freezing.

Mulch

You might think that mulch is just for decoration, but it’s not. Mulch has many purposes outside of making the area under a plant or tree look nice. For instance, adding mulch in a donut-shape around a shrub will help conserve the water within the soil and also keep the roots from getting cold in the winter. Mulch should be at a depth of no more than four inches (4″), otherwise it may trap too much moisture and cause the roots and base to rot. Also, it is good practice to pull the mulch back approximately six inches (6″) from the trunk so that moisture is not held against the base too long.

Fence Barrier

As the winter months start to settle in, so does wildlife. One of the most common places for animals to seek refuge during the brutal cold months is in plants and trees. Although this makes a perfect shelter for animals, it can cause damage to your plant life. By installing a small protective fence around the plant/tree, you are making it difficult for wildlife to take up habitat in it. Even though some animals, such as squirrels, won’t think twice about hopping over the fence, other animals will have difficulty accessing it and will move on to another area.

A fence is also great for preventing deer from using the trunk of a tree to sharpen their antlers. This practice causes the bark to be shaved off in large areas and can cause other damage as well.

Tree Wrapping

Tree wraps are available at most lawn and garden centers and involve wrapping the lower base of a tree with a protective covering. The purpose of tree wrapping is to protect the delicate bark of younger trees and also to prevent sunscald from trees of all ages. Sunscald is when the bark gets hot during the day from the sun but then suddenly freezes at night. The damage creates a “scar” on the tree, which is from the damaged bark.¬†

Covering 

Back in our grandparents’ time, it was common practice for plants and shrubs to be covered with pillowcases, towels and sheets before nighttime in the cold months. This was to protect the fragile leaves from frost accumulating on them.

In modern times, products such as burlap sheets or plastic tarps are used for the same purpose.

Stop Late Pruning and Fertilizing

One precautionary measure that you can take to prevent damage to shrubs and trees is to cease late pruning and fertilizing. The practice of pruning and fertilizing often stimulates growth, which is something that doesn’t need to happen right before temperatures drop. New growth is fragile; so if there were any that developed, the bitter cold temps could possibly cause extreme damage.

Resolve Dry Ground Issues

Although you should never water your plants before freezing weather, it is also unhealthy to allow your plants to enter the cold months with dry soil. In droughts, the soil can crack, which will cause gaps for colder temps, frost and snow to seep through to the roots. The best method would be to water the plant or tree when there will be a period of above-freezing weather, and then treat the soil cracks with salt.

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