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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
ISU Hort Center Winter

Preparing Trees For winter

Trees are tough and durable handling wind, rain, snow loads, drought, compaction and freezing. Depending on the species, they can be very adaptable to poor growing conditions. However, not all trees found in the garden center are ideal for growing in Central Illinois without additional care.

For instance, the primary issue that faces the University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners in the Plant Clinic is growing problems with evergreens. Evergreens when grown incorrectly or planted in the wrong location can have a multitude of problems, from browning, disease pressures and poor root health.

The primary issue is evergreens cannot go into the winter months dry. The issue evergreens face is drying out from the wind or sun. It's crucial that evergreens are kept watered until the ground freezes. Since evergreens do not drop their leaves like deciduous trees, they are still living and breathing throughout the winter and need to be able to uptake water as a result.

University of Illinois suggests watering evergreen and newly established trees at least 1 inch a week when it hasn't rained. Making sure evergreens go into the winter well watered will prevent future problems with these plants and trips to the Master Gardener Clinic. Evergreens that are stressed by drought are more susceptible to insects and disease and can turn brown.

Another issue that may affect trees in the winter months is sunscald, which occurs when sunlight heats up the south and southwest side of deciduous tree trunks. This causes cells to come out of dormancy and become active. As the temperatures drops, the active cells and conductive tissue are destroyed, causing injury that may appear later as sunken crack.

Sunscald can be managed by using commercial tree wraps, which are made of crepe paper and help to insulate the bark. In early November, wrap trunks upward from the base of the tree up to the lowest branches. This is typically done on the most recently planted trees until they become well-established. Be sure to remove tree wrap and tape the following April to avoid girdling, moisture buildup against the tree and places for insects to hide.

Winter feeding of rabbits and voles also may be of concern. Putting up a barrier, such as chicken wire or hardware cloth, is really the easiest and most environmental defense for trees. As Candice Miller, horticulture educator puts it, "preparing your trees for winter may be an additional amount of work, but the payoff of having a healthy tree next spring is definitely worth it."

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