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: http://www.marpletreecommission.com/mulching-trees-correctly/.
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!