Here in Connecticut we face a whole range of threats to our trees and shrubs during winter, both from the weather itself and from animal pests. Here are just a few of the things that can injure your plants during the cold months of winter:
- Heavy snow loads can break branches, especially if snow is shoveled or falls off your roof onto your plants
- Cold dry winds will dry out trees, especially conifers
- Sun reflecting off snow can scald and blister tree trunks and branches
- And of course deer will munch away on anything they can get to
The good news is that all of these things can be prevented. Here are our recommendations for how to protect trees and shrubs from the harsh winter weather.
Protection From Snow Loads
Build an A-frame over plantings and shrubs near the house so when snow comes off the roof they are shielded from the impact. This is a great use of some scrap plywood or planks. Cut them so as to form an A over the shrub, then either screw the pieces together at the top or install a couple old hinges so you can tuck it away for next year.
Protection from Wind, Sun and Deer
The most effective winter protection for trees and shrubs is burlap. Eco-friendly, biodegradable and strong, burlap is the MacGyver of protecting your landscape.
This functional fabric is ideal for protecting newly planted trees, late-planted trees with underdeveloped root systems, and trees subject to powerful winter winds, sunscald, and damaging hard frost.
How to Apply Burlap
There are two trains of thought on how to apply burlap.
Option 1 – Wrap the Plant
First, wrap the plant directly with burlap and tie it to itself with string or zip ties. This helps to mitigate the winter concerns previously mentioned but I don’t like that it’s in direct contact with the tree, shrub or conifer. My concern here is that the plant can’t breath and could trap moisture against foliage (especially on conifers). However, it’s a quick and easy way to provide protection and is better than no protection at all.
Option 2 – Build a Tent
The second option is a little more work but I believe it’s a better system. Instead of wrapping the burlap around the plant, use metal or wood stakes like you’re creating a fence around your bushes and/or shrubs. Try to close off deer access if you can and at a minimum put up one straight row to create a wind break.
Make sure to beat the stakes into the ground before frost sets in!
The key here is to keep the burlap 6”-10” from the plant and foliage so it breaths a little. Make sure the burlap is high enough to keep deer away. Also, if you use wood stakes you can just go crazy with the staple gun when securing the burlap. When you remove the burlap in spring, just roll it up and label a stake so you know where to put it next fall.