Preparing Your Yard and Garden for Winter (winterprep)

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Preparing Your Yard and Garden for Winter

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Each fall as the growing season comes to a screeching halt it seems like the landscape is soon forgotten. Thinking about the landscape now and protecting it from the winter months will reap dividends next spring.

Soils around trees and shrubs can dry out over winter. In some cases, drying out causes considerable damage to the plants. Mulches conserve moisture. They also have many other wonderful qualities.

For recently planted trees and shrubs mulch gives new roots more time to develop. Mulch also helps minimize the effect of temperature fluctuations that can heave plant crowns out of the ground. Mulch also prolongs plant dormancy in the spring and reduces the chance of late spring frost injury to new leaves and flowers.

Wood chips, shredded bark, and pine needles all make good mulches. The mulch should be coarse enough not to blow away. Apply about two to three inches of mulch around the base of the plants. Do not mound mulch around the trunk of trees.

New trees and shrubs depend on proper watering for their first three years in the landscape. In the first two years, a tree replaces its original root system it lost in the nursery. Excess water loss can lead to "winter burn" or death. Water all trees and shrubs that have been in your landscape less than three years one last time before the ground freezes (usually around Thanksgiving).

All needle and broadleaf evergreens need to be watered one last time before the ground freezes since they will continue to lose water from their foliage all winter. This is important especially for all newly- planted evergreens since they often have root systems too small to absorb enough water during the winter.

Wrap the trunks of newly planted, thin-barked trees with tree-wrap paper to prevent sun scalding of the bark. Closely spaced trees in nurseries help shade each other, but when they are transplanted to open areas, they may receive full exposure to winter sunlight. If you do not protect them, sun scalding can occur. This can damage or kill tissue under the bark. Paper tree wrap can prevent the rapid temperature changes in the bark that cause frost cracking and sunscald.

All paper wrap should be removed in the spring. Wrap can cause damage to the tree if left on the tree too long. Wrap does not provide protection from rodents.

You may also need to protect your trees and shrubs plants from rodents. If you've had rodent damage in previous years, you may want to place wire, hardware cloth, or a plastic spiral around the trunks of small trees to protect them. It should be at least one to two feet higher up the trunk than the expected snow level and be sure to submerge the material two to three inches into the ground.

Also, clean up old, diseased or insect-infected foliage or fruit around the yard. Clean away weeds, tall grass, and leaves from the trunk area.

This resource was added November 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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