As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it’s important to make sure that every winter you find some sort of insulation for the trees that matter the most to you. Mulch has been brought up several times – and summarily will be discussed a little bit later on, but there are some other forms of insulation you can use to help your tree thrive through the harsh next few months.
Let’s jump right in!
Straw can be an excellent material for insulation. In fact, straw is used even today – as natural insulation for certain buildings and structures. Now – it’s important for you more educated nature lovers out there to know that there IS a difference between straw and hay. Hay you might be thinking – absorbs moisture. Wouldn’t that be bad? You’re right, hay is bad; but hay is not straw.
Straw has more natural durability and stays dry. If you’re looking for something to cover up your trees’ trunks, straw can be ideal - especially when it comes to younger trees. Just like when you’re mulching a tree- a little extra is always a good idea in the winter. It’ll help protect root systems from the cold and even weed systems from emerging as we transition into the warmer months.
No, really – snow can actually be a fantastic insulator. Well, at least temporarily it can be. There’s certainly a debate among professionals on how desirable it is – or more particularly the amount that falls. But much like mulch, snow can be a protective blanket that can serve as a barrier between the low temperature in the air and the higher temperatures in the earth.
This is important, because the insulating effects that snow has can help ground covers and plantings from tumultuous freezing and thawing cycles. If the snow wasn’t there – sun could potentially overheat the soil surface- leading to heaving and other damaging forces that can break roots and dry out plants.
All that being said, there are some drawbacks to snow – some more obvious than others. In instances where you get heavy snow – you can see a lot of tree and shrub damage as the snow’s weight can have an adverse effect on branches. The other main drawback is that small animals like field mice, rabbits and moles are now protected from predators. These same animals like to chew on the bark of trees and shrubs and can cause a significant amount of damage in their own right.
The final positive on snow is really more superficial than anything else – and that’s the enhanced appearance of the landscape. Especially when it comes to trees and shrubs that have ornamental bark – they’re going to look dynamite in the snow. Evergreens look greener and red twig dogwood looks redder. All in all – snow can be a great insulator and form of sustenance for your landscape.
We’ve discussed mulch in some past blogs and especially when it comes to younger trees – mulch can be great. Mulch helps plants maintain a more consistent temperature, helps tree roots stay warmer, and helps provide and maintain better nutrient intake and much more.
The one thing to keep in mind in the winter is that not all mulch is created equal – and when it comes to protecting plants from the cold, there are wide ranges of types of mulch that can be used.
The #1 rule to remember is that organic material is the best and that inorganic material (rocks, etc.) should be avoided at all costs. Wood chips, pine needles, bark mulch and even evergreen branches can be a fantastic insulator in the winter months. The one thing you do want to be careful about is animal inhabitants – as they love to use these materials not only for food – but shelter, too. So as you can imagine using some sort of animal repellent is advised.
At the end of the day, the one thing you want to hope for is weather consistency. Colder winters at least help plants avoid wild temperature fluctuations. In warmer winters, trees frequently have to deal with sudden frosts, and damaging, sudden events. If you’ve mulched or protected your trees in the fall – you’ll at the very least help them through those tough times. Never forget the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”