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Time to get your young trees ready for winter!

Take a look out your window. Do you see a lone young tree maybe more than one bare of leaves and exposed to the elements? You wouldn't survive a winter out there without some kind of protection, and your trees might not either.

As Fall turns into Winter, you need to be thinking about the damage that fluctuating temperatures can inflict on your trees. More to the point, you need to be aware of what you can do to help them stay alive and healthy between now and next Spring.

The two main problem areas are the roots and the bark.

The root system of a young tree can become quite seriously disturbed by extreme temperature fluctuations. Comparatively sunny days and cold nights in turn thaw and freeze... then re-thaw and re- freeze the soil. This affects not only young trees but also shrubs that can become partially uprooted by this flip-flop weather treatment.

I've got a couple of ideas to help you give the little guys a helping hand. Mulching is a highly effective remedy and probably won't cost you anything. Leaves will make an excellent mulch, but to prevent them packing, run over them a few times with a lawn mower to make a light porous mulch. Then spread the leaf mulch around the base of your shrubs and young trees to a depth of about three or four inches.

You can also use wood chips, laid to a depth of about six inches around the base of the tree. If you use wood chips, avoid letting them touch the bark as this has a tendency to encourage fungus growth that could burrow under the skin of your sapling.

If your trees and shrubs are likely to be exposed to drifting snow or particularly severe winds, you can also protect them with burlap screens attached to stakes.

The bark and cambium of young trees particularly smooth bark trees is susceptible to splitting during the winter. The tissue heats up in the daylight hours under the warmth of the sun, and starts to expand. At night, there's a sudden drop in temperature causing the bark and cambium to split. And you don't want that to happen.

The solution is fairly simple. Buy a roll of tree wrap or burlap and wrap it around the trunk of the young tree. As a rule of thumb, you'll need about ten feet of wrap for a tree that is approximately two inches in diameter. Start at the bottom and wrap the tree from the root to just below the lowest branches, overlapping the wrap by about one half inch. If you remove the tree wrap carefully in the Spring, you should be able to store it for use next Winter.

To contact Steve Jones with your comments and questions, send e-mail to steve@landsteward.org

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