6 Tips for Protecting Lawn and Shrubs from Freeze

6 tips to help protect shrubs, lawn and trees prior to and during the winter months.

Winter sun, wind and cold temperatures can bleach and dry out evergreen foliage, damage bark, injure or kill branches, flower buds, and roots. Snow and ice can break branches and topple entire trees. Salt used for deicing streets, sidewalks and parking lots is harmful to landscape plants. Winter food shortages force rodents and deer to feed on bark, twigs, flower buds and leaves, injuring and sometimes killing trees and shrubs.

Here are some steps you can take to protect trees and shrubs and minimize injury:

Reducing root injury

Mulch new trees and shrubs with 6 to 8 inches of wood chips or straw.
If the fall has been dry, water heavily before the ground freezes to reduce frost penetration.
Check new plantings for cracks in the soil and fill them with soil.

Mulch thickly before a freeze to help reduce root injury.

Mulch thickly before a freeze to help reduce root injury.

Sunscald prevention

Use a white commercial tree wrap or plastic tree guards. Do not use brown paper tree wrap or black colored tree guards as they will absorb heat from the sun.
Wrap newly planted trees for at least two winters and thin-barked species up to five winters or more.
Put the wrap on in the fall and remove it in the spring after the last frost.

Minimizing dieback

Plants in a vigorous growing condition late in the fall are most likely to suffer winter dieback, so avoid late summer pruning, fertilizing, and overwatering.
Fertilize in the spring on sandy soil or in the fall on heavy soil after the leaves have dropped.

How to reduce evergreen winter injury
Construct a barrier of burlap or similar material on the south, southwest, and windward sides of evergreens. If a plant has exhibited injury on all sides, surround it with a barrier, but leave the top open to allow for some air and light penetration.
Keep evergreens properly watered throughout the growing season and into the fall.

Preventing snow and ice damage
Wrap relatively small trees together or tie the leaders with strips of carpet, strong cloth or nylon stockings two-thirds of the way above the weak crotches. Remove these wrappings in spring to prevent girdling, and to allow free movement of the stem.

Wrap the base of evergreens but keep enough room for air light and snow to land on boughs

Wrap the base of evergreens but keep enough room for air light and snow to land on boughs

Preventing salt damage
Use alternative de-icing salts such as calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA).
Use salt-tolerant plant species near walks and roads where salt may be applied.  Remember that no species is completely tolerant of salt injury and that even salt-tolerant trees have limits on the amount of salt they can handle.