When it comes to seedling care, there is quite a bit of information out there! A lot of it is great, straightforward and helpful… but some of it is just downright confusing.
So we would like to help with a comprehensive list of the best general advice to keep your plants safe and happy over the winter season!
Clean Up Dropped Leaves
Make sure to remove any dropped leaves from around the base of your plant, as that ensures that any leaf-borne diseases or pests that could potentially be there will be removed as well.
Make Sure They Have Enough Water
In order to ensure that your plant goes into dormancy, you want to let your regular watering schedule taper off, so that it knows that it is time to go to sleep. Giving it regular water and even fertilizer is like giving your plants coffee; they’ll want to stay awake longer (although there are a few exceptions.)
It is better to let your plants dry out as it gets colder and once you remove all the dropped leaves and add a layer of mulch, you’ll want to water it once quite well, fully saturating the soil with a nice big drink before it goes into full dormancy.
Once the ground is frozen, trees need to make do with the moisture they’ve already absorbed. If your plant takes too long to go fully into dormancy before it freezes, it could cause tip damage or could struggle to leave dormancy in the spring.
Mulch acts as an insulating blanket that protects against extreme winter temperatures which can result in moisture loss and root damage. A good 3-4 inches around the base of your plant helps to moderate soil temperature, and in springtime will deter the growth of weeds that can compete with your seedlings for water and nutrients! Leave some room around the stem or base of the plant, as piling mulch too close could promote mold or other problems.
The type of mulching that would be best suited for your project depends on your landscape and what you have planted. Some excellent types of mulch include shredded hardwood, weed-free straw, shredded branches from pruning, landscape fabric (often used in conjunction with shredded bark or hardwood) or pebble stones. The use of sawdust, wood shavings, or un-aged wood chips can affect the health of your plants over time, because as they age they begin to consume large amounts of nitrogen, thus throwing off the pH levels in your soil.
Mulching increases biodiversity, helps trees handle drought, (winter is technically a drought season), and improves soil composition. So make sure your little seedlings have a nice blanket of mulch down before the snow comes.
Add Plant-Wrap, and A Wind Barrier
Wrap your plant in crop-cover, or different plant plastics that you find at your local hardware store or garden center, and even burlap can work well if you are able to keep it dry.
You want something breathable and durable, that will protect the crown of your plants from things like tip-damage, and sun-scorch without suffocating your plants or causing them to rot due to too much trapped moisture. You can create barriers with wire or plastic fencing, or a host of other materials, just as long as it blocks the harsh winter winds.
Using both wrapping and barriers in tandem is a great way to ensure that your seedlings have the best chance of winter survival!
As always, our best advice is to check up on your new trees on a regular basis, get in touch with what they need, and keep everything balanced to optimize their success!
Have a Great Winter!