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Tips for Preparing Landscape Trees and Shrubs for Winter

Fall is a good time for homeowners to inspect trees and shrubs in their landscape and to plan for some preventative maintenance to minimize problems that can occur over the winter.

With the winter months just around the corner, now is a good time for homeowners to prepare their landscape for the cold weather ahead. In addition to raking up leaves, cleaning out flower beds and other similar autumnal tasks, Michigan State University Extension recommends that homeowners consider the following tips regarding trees and shrubs:

Before the ground freezes, consider watering trees and shrubs
As most people are aware, the summer of 2012 has been extremely dry in many parts of Michigan. Consequently, many trees and shrubs in non-irrigated settings are under a certain amount of drought stress. Watering trees and shrubs (needle-bearing, conifer species especially) before they go totally dormant can help them better tolerate winter conditions – especially winter winds that can further dry-out the foliage of these plants and make them turn brown over the winter.

Protect trees and shrubs now that suffer from winter drying injury
Homeowners should analyze their landscape to identify areas that are subject to constant wind exposure to trees and shrubs. For conifers planted in areas that regularly suffer from winter desiccation injury (as described above), the best way to prevent this type of damage is to erect some type of barrier in front of susceptible plants to block the winter winds. Barriers constructed of burlap or wooden or plastic snow fence can be used and should be installed soon to block the prevailing winter winds and reduce winter injury.

Protect trees and shrubs that regularly suffer from snow and ice damage
In areas around the home where snow loads can accumulate over the winter such as from falling off the roof, from snowplowing, snow blowing or just from prevailing winds that cause the snow to drift in certain spots, the heavy weight of snow and ice can cause significant damage to trees and shrubs. In some traditional snow-belt areas of Michigan, the large amount of snow that falls over the winter can sometimes literally tear branches right off of young conifer trees as the snow packs down as the winter wears on. Therefore, some type of protection should be installed right now around or over the top of plants most prone to damage to prevent snow from piling up on top of these plants that can eventually cause twigs and branches to break off from the trunk or worse.

Get a head start on tree and shrub maintenance needs for the year 2013
After leaves fall off of deciduous trees and shrubs in the fall, homeowners can often see plant problems that may not have been very noticeable with the foliage on the branches. A good example is crossing or rubbing branches and other structural defects in the branches of a tree or shrub. Severe problems can pruned out now if necessary or perhaps a homeowner can make a mental note to prune that plant before the new leaves emerge in the spring.

Overall, fall is a good chance for homeowners to inspect their landscape plants and begin to plan ahead as to what type of tree and shrub maintenance that may be needed in the next growing season. Some additional on-line resources on protecting trees and shrubs from winter injury are available at these university extension websites:

And you thought you could just relax for the winter!

This article was written by Russell Kidd for Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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