How to Prevent Shrubs and Trees from Dying in the Winter
Friday, February 15, 2019 | by Scott Bennett
This winter, the Wasatch Front has had a number storms. Some of them have been snow storms. Others storms have been rain and wind. As great as the storms are for our water supply and our air, these storms and their gray skies have left many of us longing for spring. When the snow finally melts for good, isn’t it disappointing to discover that some of your trees and shrubs have died over the winter? Trees and shrubs are expensive and a pain to replace. What can be done to prevent them from dying? What can I do right now?
One of the best protections for shrubs and trees is mulch at least 4-6 inches thick. Mulch not only looks decorative but insulates plants against harsh temperatures. Mulch also helps to preserve moisture in the ground, where plants’ roots can get to it. When you mulch, make sure you don’t put it right up against your tree’s trunk. Believe it or not but rodents often winter in mulch and may forage around under the snow for food. Mulch that is right next to a trunk encourages rodents to nibble on bark, potentially damaging it. When a tree’s bark is compromised, it weakens the whole tree.
2. Wrap Trunks or Stems in Burlap.
This doesn’t need to be done for well-established shrubs or trees but wrapping a tree’s trunk helps protect it from rodents and from sunscald (a condition affecting younger trees and bushes).
3. Use Burlaps or Cut Branches as a Wind Barrier.
Newer shrubs and trees can be damaged from cold, drying winter winds. Which way does the wind often blow at your house? Build a wind barrier with burlap or even cut the branches of a discarded Christmas tree to soften the effect of wind on your plants.
4. Water Well in the Fall.
Sometimes before winter even hits, our trees and shrubs may be dehydrated and under some stress. This can come from poor sprinkler system installation, bad weather, or many other things. Watering them well in the fall helps them to be stronger going into the cold, try winter months. Make it a habit to water your trees and shrubs deeply less often rather than a little sprinkle every day. Less frequent, deeper watering help plants to establish deeper root systems that will get them through times of stress.
5. Give Your Struggling Plant Time.
If the spring comes and you have a shrub or tree that has few if any leaves and seems to be struggling, don’t pull it out just yet. Give it some extra time. It may need extra time to recover. We know you are worried about all the landscape maintenance that is going to come in the spring, but don't over think things. With some care and some time your trees will likely get better.
You still may be able to save it with some TLC.
Sometimes crazy weather conditions will kill trees no matter what we do. Some of the most dangerous times for trees is near the end of winter when it starts to warm up. Occasionally, there will be a sudden drop in temperature injuring plant tissue. Mulching, watering, and using burlap all give your trees and shrubs the best chance of survival, no matter what Mother Nature brings.
Spring will be here before we know it and hopefully all of your trees and shrubs will be in full bloom soon.