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Winter Tree & Shrub Care Guide

Snowy backyard photo

You may not think about your trees and shrubs during the winter, but you should. Winter can be hard on outdoor plants, but there are a few things you can do to help them out.

At Custom Lawn, we’ve come up with a winter shrub care guide with handy tips to keep your plants healthy and get the most out of them come spring and summer.

Watering in the Winter

You may think that plants go dormant in the winter so they don’t need any care all season long, but actually, they are at the mercy of their environment. Temperatures can vary drastically. Sometimes it won’t rain for weeks.

Freezing ground traps water making it inaccessible. Winter sun can be scorching. Mulch helps keep moisture in the ground as well, but it’s best if it is applied in the fall while the soil is full of moisture. If you haven’t mulched, make a note to do it this coming fall.

In the Kansas City area, only water once the temperature and the soil are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no snow on the ground at that time. Late morning till around noon is ideal so the water will have time to penetrate the ground before the cooler night arrives. For more detailed watering information, see our blog post Winter Watering Tips.

Don’t Fertilize during Winter Months

You don’t want to fertilize your trees and shrubs in the winter. Fertilization encourages growth and you don’t want your plants trying to grow when they should be storing their energy to survive the winter and look great in the summer. Wait until spring to fertilize.

Winter Is a Great Time to Prune

It’s okay to do some pruning in the winter. With deciduous trees and shrubs that shed their leaves, wintertime makes it easier to see the structure of the branches. Remove any branches that will grow toward the center of the shrub to allow air and light in. Also remove any shoots that ruin the overall shape of the plant.

Definitely remove any damaged, diseased, or dead branches. Don’t prune spring blooming bushes because the buds are already formed and removing branches will mean fewer blooms in spring. Wait until after they bloom to prune these shrubs.

Strong Winds Can Damage Plants

Check Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs. Because they are new, their roots haven’t had a chance to grow into the ground. These plants are susceptible to winds that could loosen them or blow them over. Make sure they are okay and press them back into the soil if they are loose. Cold blasts of air can also cause wind scorch to evergreens.

If you notice dried needles or browning, you may want to build a simple shelter to protect it. Simply drive tree stakes into the ground around the tree or shrub and staple the wind break netting to the stakes surrounding the plant on all sides.

Check Older Trees and Shrubs

If any established trees or shrubs have ties and stakes, check to make sure winter winds haven’t loosened the stakes. Also, make sure the ties aren’t rubbing the bark off where they touch the tree. Usually, stakes only need to be in place for about 18 months while the tree or shrub’s root system is cementing them in place solidly. After that, the plant should be able to remain anchored unaided.

Too Much Snow Can Damage Trees and Shrubs

When too much snow piles on top of branches, it can cause them to crack under the weight. Pay attention during heavy snows, especially wet snows that tend to be even heavier. Shake, or gently knock the branches with a stick to remove excess snow. You can also prune your shrubs to have a rounded top instead of a flat top. This will prevent too much snow from piling up on a flatter surface.

Take good care of your plants in the winter. Trees and shrubs are an investment and just a little extra effort in the winter months will ensure healthy plants, more growth, and more blooms in the spring. Our Custom Lawn plant health care technicians are experts who can answer any questions about tree and shrub care. Call us at Custom Lawn if you have questions about your trees and shrubs. We’re here to help!

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