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Preparing Recently Planted Trees & Shrubs For Winter

Let’s face it, winters in Rochester and the Finger Lakes can be brutal. That’s why we take special care to bundle up our children when they go outside. We need to do the same thing with our young trees and shrubs, especially those that we planted this year.

Start with the roots. Make sure your young trees and shrubs get plenty of water right up until the ground freezes. Moist soil holds more heat than dry soil so trees and shrubs have more time to stay active until frost and freeze force them into dormancy.

Spreading three or four inches of good, organic mulch over the root zone will provide additional insulation for these new plants that are still getting acclimated to their new home. Don’t pile it up against the trunk in a mulch volcano. Rather, leave a couple of inches gap between the trunk and the mulch. If you see cracks in the backfill, fill them up with soil.

Moving up the tree, wrap thin bark, deciduous tree trunks with paper tree wrap or plastic tree guards, available at garden centers or home stores. This protects the trunks from sun scald. Sun scald can result in frost cracks, which are vertical cracks in the bark.

Apply anti desiccant to the foliage of evergreen trees and shrubs to prevent winter burn. Anti desiccant is a wax like material that reduces the amount of water that the wind can blow from their leaves or needles, causing them to turn brown.

Really tender evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs should be wrapped in burlap to further protect them from the wind and road spray. Use poles to hold the burlap several inches from the tree branches. Keep the top open so the tree or shrub will get sunlight and moisture.

If you use a plastic tree guard to protect against sun scald, it will also protect against hungry rodents who eat the outer and inner bark when they can’t find food in winter. If you don’t use plastic guards, I recommend wrapping the trunk in a material called hardware cloth. Hardware cloth is a flexible steel mesh. Wrap it around a young tree trunk to about a foot above the height of the highest average snowfall. Be sure you don’t wrap it too tightly.

Finally, rake up fallen leaves from beneath deciduous trees, otherwise they can mat up, hold water and block sunlight. Also, check the branch structure after the leaves fall to be sure all the branches are sound. Look for branches that are crossing, rubbing or broken and remove the weakest or the broken branches if you can reach them without a ladder. Leave climbing to our professional arborists. If you want, you can leave all of the winter preparation of your young trees and shrubs to our professionals.

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