Running a Small Farm

Three Ways To Protect Your Fruit Trees From The Perils Of Winter

by Myrtle Herrera

Biting into a juicy, freshly harvested peach or a crisp, shiny apple is one of the joys of summertime. If you can pick this delicious fruit from trees in your backyard, the pleasure is even greater. However, unlike oaks and some other types of trees commonly planted near the home, fruit trees require a bit more attention and preparation to help them deal with the stress of winter weather. Whether you have just one of these trees in your backyard, or an entire orchard, the following tips will help you keep each one strong and healthy through the coming winter season.

Protecting the Roots

Older, more established fruit trees may have already developed the deep root system needed to keep the tree healthy when the top layers of soil freeze during the winter, but younger trees may not. If the root system is shallow or just beginning to develop, adding a thick, protective blanket of natural materials on top of the soil above the roots can help keep them safe from the cold.

To do this, apply several inches of compost, shredded bark, wood chips, sawdust, straw or a mixture of these materials in an even layer under the tree, continuing out past the outermost edge of the tree's canopy.

Discouraging Nibbling Pests

Rabbits, mice, voles and other rodents enjoy nibbling on the bark of fruit trees during the winter. This can create stress for young trees, or even damage them so severely that they die. To discourage this type of problem, refrain from piling mulch or allowing tall grass, weeds or decaying fruit to remain around the base of the tree where it could attract rodents and hide their activity.

If rodent activity is a big problem in your area, consider painting tree trunks with a combination of paint, water and drywall compound to make the tree less appealing. It can also be helpful to place a protective screen or covering around the base of the tree to prevent rodents from accessing the tree and to pull back any deep snow cover that could allow persistent animals to burrow underneath and chew on hidden areas of the tree.

Staying Alert for Visible Damage

Severely cold temperatures make tender fruit tree limbs brittle and easily damaged by the harsh winds of winter. To help keep wind damage from doing permanent harm to your fruit trees, check them for breakage after each winter storm. If you note any broken or partially severed limbs, contact a reputable tree trimming service in your area to remove the damaged area and reshape the tree to make it less susceptible to further wind damage.  

To learn more, contact a company like Tidd Tree