Winter is coming— and there are a few things you need to do to prepare for the winter ahead. You might be finishing your last mow, fertilizing your turf and even thinking about pruning your dormant trees and bushes when the cold hits. But have you remembered to wrap your newly planted shrubs and trees?
Wrapping these still settling plants with burlap early to mid-December is beneficial for many reasons. In fact, not wrapping your trees and shrubs for at least 2-3 years after planting them could lead to permanent problems for your investments. (While most established plants might not need wrapping, be sure to consult an expert about your specific species, as some thin-barked trees or sensitive shrubs might need it every year).
Here are four big reasons to wrap your trees and shrubs and protect them against winter harm:
1. The wrapping acts as a wind barrier.
Certain types of evergreen broad-leaved shrubs and conifers may be susceptible to desiccation. Harsh winds cause your foliage to dry out and turn brown when winds strip them of stored moisture.
As we explain the linked article above, your plant’s roots can’t replace the moisture sucked away by the cold or expelled naturally if its root system is frozen— as they can’t suck up the nutrients they need to recover. Without water, your trees and shrubs will begin to die over a harsh winter.
Consider using a highly recommended anti-desiccant on your trees and shrubs and adding creative barriers, like recycling the branches of your Christmas tree, to act as a windbreaker, catch snow and provide insulation.
2. The wrapping helps protect against harsh salt damage.
Many homeowners enter spring with yellowing grass or browning plants— and a lot of the time the biggest culprit is salt damage from deicer products used for melting snow.
Sodium affects your soil the most. The University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension Service summed it up quite nicely: “Sodium reduces nutrient uptake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium by displacing those nutrients. Excessive sodium in soils causes soil aggregates to break down, resulting in poor aeration and slow water permeability. The resulting soil lacks good drainage and proper oxygen concentrations and leads to reduced moisture uptake by roots.”
Basically, your plants can’t get the nutrients and water they need to prosper. Cutting back on your salt usage and flushing your plants with water come spring certainly helps, as well as choosing a deicer without chloride in it, but the best way to prevent salt from absorbed into your soil or splashing onto your plants from plows is to shelter them with protective wrapping.
3. The wrapping lessens the damage caused by the rise and fall of temperatures.
As winter creeps to an end in Massachusetts, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to drastically spike and plummet. It might be in the 60s for a few days and then drop back down to the 30s, like that!
These extremes can confuse your trees and shrubs, which begin to “awaken” from dormancy too soon. The cold temperatures then injury your plant’s soft tissue, resulting in bud or branch damage, leaf drop or delayed development come spring.
Your wrapping will act as insulation for your trees and shrubs, helping them maintain more even and warmer temperatures than if they were uncovered. Plus, this barrier also shields your trees from the permanent damage of sun scalding, a condition that occurs on frozen bark after experiencing high temperatures. Burlap can also safeguard against frost cracking, which grants insects and disease easy access to your tree.
4. The wrapping safeguards your plants against deer.
If you already wrapped your shrubs and trees to protect them against harsh weather and winter winds, you’re in luck. Your holly, rhodys, yews or roses are tasty snacks for deer, and with an adult deer capable of eating about six pounds of plant material a day, you need to keep them covered.
Plus, male deer are known for scraping their antlers against bark, damaging your trees and leaving them more susceptible to disease. If they’ve been huge problems for you in the past, consider adding fencing around your property or your prized plants to deter them. Make sure the barrier is tall though, as deer can jump up to eight feet high!
In tandem with your wrapping, consider purchasing a well-rated deer repellent and spraying it once a month, September through April near your vulnerable plants. Or, read our article all about protecting your trees and shrubs from deer damage.
Prep like a Pro
While shrub and tree wrapping can help to shelter your newly planted foliage from harmful winter damage, be sure to remove any coverage come spring— as that protective layer can become a home for insects and disease once the warmth hits.
There’s a lot you can do to protect your landscape from the cold winter. Download our Winter Prep e-book to ensure you’re checking off all the right boxes.