Having a collections of fruit trees is a great thing to have.
Being able to go outside and pull some fruit off of your tree is a great feeling.
Especially when you have kids who can help to pull down the fruit.
But when winter comes along, there are a few things you need to do to make sure your fruit trees last through the winter.
A few tips to winterizing your fruit trees include wrapping the trunks in commercial tree wrap, applying mulch to the base, recycling the leaves, deep watering the tree, waiting to prune until wintertime, using stakes to secure fencing or burlap around the base of the fruit tree, tying main branches together, and painting the base of the fruit trees with diluted white latex paint.
Read on to consider which options might work best for your situation.
Why you should prepare your fruit trees for winter
Winter can bring a lot of harsh weather to your garden, but also to your orchard.
Your fruit trees are just as susceptible to the winter weather as your vegetable garden.
If you don’t take care of your fruit trees, the harsh weather of the winter could cause cracking in the trunk of the tree, which would then open it up for attacks from bugs and other rodents that might see the tree as food.
The roots of your fruit tree can also freeze to the point where they die.
And if the roots of your fruit tree die, then the tree will not be able to get the nutrients it needs during any time of the year.
Taking a few extra steps in the summer and fall to help prepare the trees could do a lot towards keeping the fruit tree safe during the winter season.
Wrap the trunks
There are a few things that might happen to your fruit tree during the winter.
That includes being attacked by animals, rodents, or bugs.
But it also includes sunscald and freezing temperatures.
If you don’t protect against these, your fruit trees won’t last very long.
Wrapping the trunks in commercial tree wrap can help protect against these different situations.
One side of the tree wrap is going to be plastic, and that side goes towards the tree.
Slowly wrap the tree wrap around the tree, overlapping about one-third of the wrap and you go up the tree at an upwards angle.
Continue until you cover the first couple feet of the tree trunk,
This commercial tree wrap does a few things for you.
It helps to protect against girdling (the complete removal of the tree bark), sunscald (the sun shining off of the snow onto the tree), and damage from lawnmowers and trimmers.
It also protects it against animals, rodents, or bugs that might find the tree as food.
The double-layer gives the tree plenty of protection against any of these different situations.
Use wood chips, bark, or ground up leaves as your layer of mulch.
Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch to the base of the tree, but not directly up against the base.
Applying mulch directly up against the base may welcome animals and rodents to come right up to the base of the tree and start eating.
So keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the base of the tree.
Applying the mulch helps to keep the moisture in the ground, where you want the water to stay during the winter.
That way, the tree isn’t losing the water it needs.
It also provides a layer of warmth for the tree during the winter season.
The layer of mulch helps to keep the roots warm during the cold season.
Recycle the leaves
You might be able to save yourself some time and money if you use the leaves from your fruit trees as the mulch.
You will want to make sure to grind the leaves down so they aren’t so big.
Otherwise, if you apply them as a layer of mulch as full leaves, they are more likely to blow away in the wind.
If they are ground down, they will be a good layer of protection, plus are less likely to blow away.
Most of the time when you are watering your lawn or trees, you are going to water for a period of time so they are getting just enough water, but not enough to soak the tree.
In the case of deep watering, though, you want to give the tree enough water so that the deep roots are getting water as well as storing up plenty of water for the winter.
The process for deep watering is typically taking a hose, turning it on, laying it next to the tree, and let it water the tree for some time.
Once you have gotten about 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter, that should be enough water for the tree.
This helps the tree to store up the water it is going to need for the winter time.
Combine this with mulching the base of the tree, and the fruit tree should have all the moisture it needs for the winter season.
Pruning a tree typically means getting rid of old branches or branches that are getting too long and heavy.
The pruning process typically encourages new growth in the tree, which in turn hopefully brings back stronger branches or allows the current branches to get stronger.
Pruning in late summer/early fall is typically a bad idea since these times are when the fruit tree should start preparing for dormancy.
And pruning the branches is going to tell the fruit tree to focus on new growth, which you don’t want.
So if late summer has already come and gone, wait until the winter to prune the fruit trees.
Waiting until winter is a good idea because the fruit trees should already be in dormancy.
This means they will not try to regrow branches that you’ve just cut.
You can give your tree a good shape by pruning during the winter, then you don’t have to worry about pruning it again until early or middle of the summer.
Stakes and burlap
Stakes and burlap are an alternative option if none of the above is your cup of tea.
Burlap is a nice option because it is typically thick enough to protect the trees from wind and also keep the moisture in if you do it right.
With stakes and burlap, you are preparing the fruit trees for wind.
Start by putting stakes in the ground all around the fruit trees.
The stakes should have a good foot or foot and a half above the ground.
Then you should wrap the burlap around the stakes and use a staple gun to attach the burlap to the stakes.
This will protect the fruit trees against the wind, but will not help with the moisture.
So if you are worried about the moisture, you will want to wrap the burlap directly around the tree(s).
Once you have the burlap around the trees, use some twine to keep the burlap in place.
Tie branches together
Tying you branches together gives you a few advantages.
It first gives the fruit tree an opportunity to keep itself warm during the winter season.
It also protects the branches against breaking from someone running into them or from the wind.
If you have ever tried to break a bundle of branches, you know that breaking a bundle of branches is a lot harder than breaking individual branches.
So tying them together helps to keep them alive.
Painting the base
Painting the base protects your fruit tree against sunscald.
If you find you have a large number of fruit trees, many of the above options might cost too much for you.
Or they might be too much work.
One of the simplest things you can do to protect your trees during the winter is to paint the base of the tree.
According to OrchardPeople.com:
During the summer, paint your tree’s trunk with a 50:50 mix of white latex paint and water. Allow the paint to dry. This white coating will protect your fruit tree from sunburn! During the winter, bright sunlight reflected on snow can result in a crack in the bark on the sunny side of your tree. This damage can be an entry point for pests and diseases.https://orchardpeople.com/how-to-prepare-fruit-trees-for-winter/
This layer of paint and water will reflect the bright sunlight away from the tree and ensure the fruit tree doesn’t die from sunscald.
All the above options focused on fruit trees that are planted in the ground outside.
You may also have fruit trees that are in pots outside.
If that is the case, the best thing you can do for them, if possible, is to bring the fruit trees inside.
This might not be the case if your fruit trees are too big.
If the fruit trees are too big, then wrap some chicken wire around the post and put leaves or pine tree branches in between the chicken wire and the tree.
This will help keep the moisture in and also protect the tree from the cold.
There are a lot of different steps you can take to protect your fruit tree during the winter.
Depending on the number of trees you have to protect, that will help you determine what options might work for you.
But keep in mind that the most important things to remember are to protect your trees from the cold, keep the moisture in and protect the trees from attack.