Prepping Shrubs for Winter

Every year as fall rolls on you start thinking about winter. More specifically, you start thinking about your plants in winter. While some plants are easy because you can just bring them inside, the plants outside your home are a little more tricky. So how can you prepare your outside plants for winter?

The first thing to know about your trees and woody plants is that if they are bred to survive your hardiness zone you don’t really have to do anything to prepare them. Most local deciduous trees and shrubs can survive on their own with little-to-no intervention on your part. To prepare these shrubs for winter simply remove any dead or diseased branches that may snap under heavy snow and ice. Save the heavy trimming for spring so that you don’t lose any newly developed flower buds.

The exception to this is newly planted trees and woody shrubs that may need more care for the first year or two until their roots settle in. For these plants, you’ll want to mulch heavily, at least 2–3”, around the base to cover the entire root zone of the plant. This will help protect the roots from the constant freezes and thaws that are more damaging than staying frozen. Keep watering through fall, but stop watering them before the ground is frozen. These tips should keep young trees in good shape. If you are worried about branches snapping you may want to use a tree wrap of burlap around the tree for extra protection. You can find burlap at almost any garden center. 

When it comes to evergreen foliage such as arborvitae a burlap wrap is a great idea to protect against snow, wind, and sun particularly for the plant’s first three years of life. Winter sun can activate growth activity in evergreen trees, meaning that when the sun goes down and freezing temperatures return the active areas can be killed. Drying winter winds can pull moisture from these plants leading them to turn brown and sometimes die. The wrap will help keep the shrubs safe until the growing season starts again. You can either wrap directly around the tree or you can create a wind barrier by driving stakes into the ground and then wrapping the burlap around the stakes. If you directly wrap the tree you need to tie off the burlap with twine, and if you use the windbreak method you need to staple the burlap to the stakes. 

With just a small amount of prep work this fall your trees and shrubs will emerge from winter looking great this spring. If you don’t feel comfortable doing your own fall prep, give Organically Green Horticultural Services a call and they can do the job for you!

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