Winterizing Fruit and Nut Trees

Over the past few days I’ve been going around to our young fruit and nut trees, making sure they’re well protected from winter’s harsh weather.

This really is something that should be done in the Fall, after all of the plant’s leaves have fallen and before it gets too cold.

Fortunately for us, so far the weather has been fairly mild. I do expect it to get much colder before Spring arrives, so I’ve been finishing up winterizing the plants.

Basically there are only two main things you need to worry about when winterizing fruit trees and young nut trees to prepare them for cold weather:

1. Wrap the trunk to protect it from freezing temperature, harsh winds, and sun scald, all of which can cause the bark to split and expose it to disease and pests.

Wrapping the tree will also protect it from animals who are looking for food in the winter when there is little else to forage. Last year, our fig trees were chewed to bits by rabbits desperate for a meal. Rodents and deer are likely going to be your biggest problems in this regard.

It’s actually a good idea to just keep young trees wrapped year-round for the first few years. I prefer to use Vinyl Tree Wrap because they last the longest, but there are paper wraps you can use as well. Whitewashing the trunks is another option. A three parts water to one part white latex paint solution is recommended.

2. Mulch to insulate the roots and protect them from freezing. You’ll want 2-3 inches of organic mulch: leaves, straw, pine needles, grass clippings, wood chips- all of these are good. Not only will they insulate the ground, they’ll also break down and add nutrients to the soil, helping to feed the plant over time.

Keep the mulch 4-6 inches away from the trunk (not touching the tree with the mulch), extending out 2-3 feet in diameter. Here’s a great article on how to mulch properly.

These two simple acts will do much to protect your growing saplings. I wish I’d known to do this when we first put in fruit trees. We’ve had to replace several trees due to our ignorance. Don’t let that happen to you! You know the saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you haven’t done it yet, get outside and winterize those trees!

13 thoughts on “Winterizing Fruit and Nut Trees”

  1. I’ve had great success with our fifty fruit trees by painting them with watered down latex paint plus castor oil to deter animals ( it tastes bad ) and neem oil . There is a professional product called IV oiganics tree paint that includes more natural oils as pest deterrents. Protects from Sunburn , too early bud break , insects , rodents and freezing cracking.

  2. Hi, just ran across your site, we live near Flagstaff, AZ. expecting a lot of Snow this year and planted fruit trees this year. Thanks for the tips, will be using them! Love your site!

    • Raymond,

      It’s to leave room for the tree to breathe. Piling thick mulch up around the trunk of a tree can kill it. The article I linked to in my post explains it better 🙂

  3. I disagree with the advice to keep trunks wrapped year round. Trunk wraps give places for pests to hide. You will not see the first signs of trunk borers and miss the opportunity to stop them before they kill your tree. I follow the spray protocol in The Holistic Orchard and it is important to have the trunk exposed to the spring sprays.

    Our trunk wraps go on after the first frost and are removed when the first signs of green appear.

    • Thanks for sharing what works for you, Emily! I’ll look into that spray protocol, assuming it’s organic. 🙂 You bring up a good point. I found this additional recommendation helpful: “It is advisable to spray the trunk of the tree with a general insecticide and fungicide before wrapping. The wrapping should remain in place two years, but should be checked periodically to determine if insects or diseases are present.” -

      • I highly recommend checking the book then – The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. Everything is organic and meant to support the health of the trees. I’ve been following his protocol for years and have had amazing success.

    • I suppose knowing your climate is a good rule of thumb.

      For our area (in Oregon), we do protect young trees during the winter months, but the wrap is removed as soon as temperatures warm in early spring. An arborist advised us to wrap in late fall/early winter (keep in mind we generally have mild winters here), and to protect trees until the trunk reaches 2″ in diameter.

      Because we generally get so much rainfall, removing the wrap allows the trunk to recover. We have never used insecticides and fungicides on the trunk, but we tend to steer clear of those types of things unless absolutely necessary.

      I’ve just found this site and am enjoying browsing around. 🙂


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