If you are like many homeowners, you may have planted a young tree in your yard this past spring or summer. Now that fall and winter are approaching, you may have some concern for how well the tree will withstand the harsher weather. The following three tips can help you keep the tree healthy until warm weather returns in spring.
Tip #1: Anchor the tree properly
Winter winds and soil frost heave can cause a young tree to topple. Fortunately, you can prevent this issue by simply staking the tree correctly. A single stake is sufficient for most young trees. Choose one about 6 feet tall and then drive the it 18 to 24 inches into the ground. You should place it about 1 foot from the trunk of the tree. Then, use a cloth or soft rubber tree tie to attach the trunk to the stake. The tie should stretch parallel to the ground and be affixed to the trunk just below the bottom set of branches. If your area is prone to very high winds, a second stake may be used in the same manner. The key is you want the tree to be able to move slightly in the wind, since this encourages it to produce deeper roots, but you don't want it to blow down.
Tip #2: Use a winter mulch
As fall approaches and the leaves begin to drop, mulching over the soil covering the roots of the tree can provide some protection. This is because the mulch insulates the ground so it is less prone to freeze and thaw cycles that can heave roots out of the soil. Wait until the leaves fall first so you can rake them up. You never want to mulch with non-composted leaves as this can lead to disease or pests infestations. Instead, use wood chips, straw, or composted leaf mold as mulch. Spread it in a 3-inch thick layer, but pull it back so it doesn't rest directly against the trunk of the tree.
Tip #3: Wrap the trunk
A major issue with young trees is trunk splitting. This occurs on sunny days when the temperatures are below freezing. The sun hits one side of the trunk, which warms the sap so it begins to flow. Then, the sun sets and the sap freezes quickly. It expands as it freezes, causing the bark to split. This can sometimes kill the tree or leave it prone to insect or disease infestations. Young trees are prone to this simply because their bark is thin. You can prevent it easily, though. Once the tree drops its leaves and goes dormant, wrap it in burlap or a commercial tree wrap. Just make sure to remove it in spring as soon as the temperatures are consistently above freezing.
For more help, contact a tree service in your area.