Wrapping trees for winter | Living the Country Life

Wrapping trees for winter

Paper or plastic?

We wrapped our newly planted trees last winter with a white plastic tube to keep deer and rabbits from eating the bark. We'll keep them on over the winter, and then remove them in the spring.

Sharon Morrisey is a horticulturist with the University of Wisconsin. She says using tubes or wrapping trees prevents sunscald, which is what happens when the bark of the tree warms up during the day and freezes at night.

"As it freezes, the water in the cells expands, and actually causes the bark to split, and so you get frost cracks," Morrisey says. "You can also have scald cause damage to the cambium layer -- that's the layer of cells directly under the bark, which is responsible for adding to the girth of the trunk."

Use tree wrap on trunks of newly planted and thin-barked trees such as linden, ash, and maple. We used plastic tubes on our trees, but you can try a thick, brown paper. Start wrapping the tree from the bottom.

"The inclination for people is to start at the top, but if you start at the top and start wrapping down, then the overlaps are facing upward, and moisture can get in between the successive layers of the wrap," Morrisey says. "So start at the bottom, bury the end of the wrap in the soil, and then work your way up the trunk so it has a shingle effect."

Wrap it up as far as the lowest branches, then secure it with tape, wire, or twine. Avoid cinching rope and wire too tightly. When the tree starts to grow again in the spring, those bindings can become embedded if not removed. And never leave the wrap on for longer than necessary, because it could trap moisture and create a haven for pests. A tree wrapped from end of November through March should be just fine.

Learn more:

Winter tree care reminders: Although trees aren't producing leaves during the winter, their roots continue to grow as long as the ground is not frozen.

First-year tree care: You can keep trees strong and healthy through the winter and beyond by avoiding some common mistakes.

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