It may not seem like it with the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing this fall, but winter is on its way. Are your trees and perennials prepared for the changes ahead?
Perennial shrubs and trees, especially conifers, should be watered generously until the soil freezes. Mulching trees will help reduce winter root damage.
Young maples and thin barked trees may benefit from some kind of sunscald protection to prevent the bark from cracking this winter and spring. This protection is usually in the form of a plastic tube or tree wrap which is removed in spring. These practices can also help in reducing winter animal damage. Other fall management practices which will help reduce winter damage to trees and shrubs can be found at UMN Extension’s Yard and Garden site.
Protecting trees and shrubs from rabbits, mice, voles, and deer is a major concern in some landscapes during the winter. Mow or remove tall grass to reduce mice and vole damage. If the bark is removed or severely damaged around the tree, it will die. Protective physical barriers such as tree tubes, hardware cloth, or fencing can be utilized when practical.
Odor, taste and visual repellents can be used to repel many wildlife species, but may have inconsistent effectiveness. Human hair, soaps, garlic oil, hot sauce, and animal repellents can be applied to branches and foliage to discourage browsing. Weather, application frequency, animal population, and feeding pressure affect the success of repellents. Some animals become desensitized to the repellent, so you may want to alternate repellents. A web resource that reviews prevention and control of wildlife damage can be found at the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
If you’re unsure what is causing problems in your landscape, Extension has a great web site to help homeowners diagnose tree, shrub and plant problems or identifying a weed or insect. This site also has links to the UM Plant Disease Clinic and Soil Testing Lab.
Fall is also a good time to plant trees (be sure to water until the soil freezes). Follow these links to find recommended trees for all regions of Minnesota, Dutch Elm Disease resistant tree varieties, and edible fruit and nut trees or shrubs. The best time to prune trees is during the dormant season from January to March. Flowering shrubs can be pruned in the summer after flowering.