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Protecting Trees and Shrubs from Winter Frost

Protecting Trees and Shrubs from Winter Frost

Winter is coming – which means freezing temperatures and potential frost damage are coming as well. Fortunately, you can take steps this fall to prepare your trees and shrubs for the winter season. 

Bring Potted Plants Inside

Plants that are potted or placed in containers are more prone to frost damage. This is because they won’t benefit from the insulating powers of the earth like in-ground plants would. Potted plants are also much more susceptible to root damage in colder temperatures. When a frost hits, wait until dusk and move your potted plants and hanging baskets indoors. Choose a place that isn’t too warm, such as a spot in your garage or basement, as sudden changes in temperature can shock plants. Once the risk of frost has passed, place all of your plants back outside first thing in the morning.

Water in the Afternoon

It may seem counterintuitive, but keeping the soil moist can help protect plants from the cold. Moist soil has an insulating effect which radiates heat upward come nightfall. Water plants thoroughly throughout the fall until the ground freezes. And be sure to do it in the midday when temperatures are still somewhat warm. Make sure the water penetrates 12 to 18 inches deep to reach the root zone. 

Add Mulch

Adding a layer of mulch to your plants and garden beds will help protect the soil from sudden swings in temperature. We recommend applying a 3 to 4 inch layer of insulating mulch, such as bark mulch or pine straw, around the base of the plant. Leave an inch or two opening around the central stalk so that the warmth of the soil can travel up through the plant. When the weather starts to warm up, you’ll want to pull some of this protective mulch away.

Cover Plants

Covering up plants with a cloche, a bell shaped cover made from plastic or glass, will help keep smaller plants warm and cozy during the winter. When using cloches to ward against frost, place them over your plants just before nightfall. And then uncover them in the morning so they can benefit from the warmth and energy of the sun. To protect a larger group of plants, simply cover them up with blankets, bed sheets, towels, or drop cloths. Before laying down the fabric, place several stakes around your plants so that when you cover them, it creates a tent-like structure. If using a plastic sheet, make sure that no part of the plastic covering makes contact with your plant’s foliage, as plastic can damage your plants.

Wrap Your Trees

To protect your trees from the cold, wrap their trunks with towels, blankets, cardboard, rags, or pipe insulation. You can also use burlap or felted tree protector wraps. Starting at the base of the trunk, wrap around, making sure to overlap layers by a couple of inches. Keep wrapping in this manner until you reach the lowest branch of the tree. Secure the wrap to the tree with some twine or weatherproof tape.

If you have any questions about caring for your trees & shrubs during the winter, contact us.  We’re here to help.