Protect Young Trees From Winter

2 Materials
1 Hour
Winter can be harsh in the Northwest where we live. We struggle to keep fruit trees alive, especially when they are young. Our first trees died the first winter. There is one trick we learned from a farming family in Iowa that has helped more than anything, bubble wrap cages. After all our trees died, we thought about what we had learned concerning protecting tomatoes in Iowa weather and applied it to the trees.
This photo was taken in late April when our trees were already budding leaves. The three cages with snow caps on them are two crab apple trees and one plum tree. But let me start at the beginning.
To protect the trees from harsh blizzard winds when the branches and trunks snap, we put tomato cages around them for support. This plum tree has 3 years growth already. Remember we lost our first trees. They broke off and died from cold and wind. The cages stay on all year until the trees outgrow them. Then we brace the trees with 3 posts and ties. We also put pieces of rubber hose around the bigger tree where the wire holds them to the 3 posts.
Next we use bubble wrap to protect them and aid in warmth retention when the sun shines on them. The bubble wrap holds in the warmth like a green house. The tree receives needed moisture in winter as the root ball gets the snow melt from thawing that occurs some days. Secure the bubble wrap to the ground or fence and put down plenty of mulch. We were told new trees need water even in winter. On days it has not snowed but is above freezing, I water all the trees with buckets from the rain barrel we collect water off the roof of our house. I soak them with 4 to 6 gallons of water each dry winter days when the temperature reaches above 32 degrees F in the afternoon.
Remember that first photo with all the snow in APRIL? This is the tree inside the bubble wrap in MARCH of the same year. This is one day I watered all the trees because we had not had any snow for a good while.
This is another crab apple tree the same March year. They were both doing very well. We started with 18 inch seedlings and this is after 2 years. Both these crab apple trees are larger than the plum tree now that I posted with the open tomato cage. The trick we learned from our farmer friends about tomato cages is to wrap them in plastic to generate heat longer in fall and earlier in spring to help boost the growing season. They each have their own little green houses. We remove the bubble wrap in June when the days reach 70 F or above. We leave the cages on until the trunks are large enough to withstand stakes to stabilize them with wraps.
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  • Bryan's Workshop Bryan's Workshop on Dec 12, 2017
    Awesome bubble wrap idea!! After my trees outgrew the tomato cages, I started using bamboo. Do you prune your trees for the winter too?

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