Winter may seem like the sleepy season for landscaping and gardening, but that’s not entirely true. Your most sensitive trees can benefit tremendously from a little cold weather TLC. For fruit trees especially, proper winter maintenance is just as important as springtime care. Here’s how we recommend preparing your fruit trees for winter…
Step 1: Prune the dead branches.
Contrary to what you may think, early winter is actually the best time to prune your fruit trees. Trees are able to heal more quickly during this season and are at less of a risk for bacteria and fungal overgrowth (unlike the warm, wet springtime). The best time to prune trees is when all their leaves have dropped and they are dormant—generally sometime in December.
Step 2: Clean up the base.
Start by cleaning up any decaying fruit or large piles of leaves from the surrounding ground. This ensures that they won’t accidentally become a breeding ground for pests and diseases. Also keep an eye out for any old mummified fruit that’s still hanging on the branches. While leaving a couple of old apples or peaches may seem innocuous enough, these decaying fruits can easily become a breeding ground for insects and disease in the springtime—it’s best to pluck them off now.
Once you’ve tidied up, applying a layer of mulch around the base of the trunk can provide insulation and nourishment over the colder months. Just make sure not to heap the mulch around the base of the trunk—the primary purpose of the mulch is to act as a warm blanket for the roots. In fact, it’s best to keep the layer of mulch a few inches away from the trunk itself.
Step 3: Protect against deer (and vampires).
To help deter hungry deer from munching on your delicate branches, we sometimes set up a wire fence around the perimeter of the tree, several feet away from the tree itself. We also spray a non-toxic garlic treatment over the branches and trunk, which makes the tree less enticing to anyone looking for a snack!
Step 4: Cage up to keep small critters at bay.
Adding a mesh cage around the trunk is an important way to help protect your fruit tree from damage from small, burrowing critters like moles and voles during the winter months. We start by digging a circular trench about 6” bigger than the trunk. Then we create a cage out of mesh/hardware cloth, setting it into the trench, pounding in supportive stakes, and securing the end pieces together. This cage can stay up to protect your tree from small critters as long as you like—providing that the tree continues to have ample room to grow.
And voila, you are ready for winter! Making sure your fruit trees stay healthy throughout the season requires a little proactivity, but it ensures your most precious trees will bear fruit for years to come!
Have questions about preparing your yard for winter? We are here to support. Contact us for a consultation or to schedule an appointment to get your landscape winter-ready!