Although most of the trees in our area are well-adapted to cold weather, the winter can still pose a threat to your plantings, particularly if they’re young or weakened by disease. Extreme cold, harsh winds and heavy snowfall can all cause damage to trees and shrubs, but there are steps homeowners can take to protect their plantings from winter weather as well. Today we’ll look at a few simple precautions you can take to keep sensitive plantings safe throughout the winter.
Conifers & Broadleaf Evergreens
Be sure to water these plants thoroughly before the ground freezes to ensure their root systems have plenty of moisture to last them through the winter. Although cold weather doesn’t typically pose a threat to evergreens, they can be susceptible to damage from winds and heavy snowfalls. Evergreens planted near roadsides can also be damaged by rock salt used to melt ice on the road. To protect conifers and broadleaf evergreens from heavy winds and rock salt, erect burlap windbreaks or use shrub wraps for smaller plantings. These will help to insulate plantings and block heavy winds that “burn” conifer needles.
If conifer branches are weighed down under heavy snowfalls, you can gently shake the snow loose with a long-handled broom. You should skip this step if there’s ice on the branches however, as it can cause frozen branches to crack and break.
Deciduous Trees & Shrubs
These plantings protect themselves during the winter by shedding their leaves and going dormant. Just like with evergreens, it’s important to make sure deciduous trees and shrubs receive a healthy dose of water before the ground freezes. After the ground freezes, apply a fresh, thick layer of mulch around the base of deciduous trees to insulate the ground and prevent it from heaving. The bark on young deciduous trees is vulnerable to wind and rodent damage during the winter, so it’s a good idea to protect them with plastic or wire tree guards. The bark on older trees should be able to withstand the elements on its own, as long as the trees are healthy to begin with.