NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 30, 2013

Tim's Tips: Getting ready for winter

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — So, what do you think the winter will be like this year?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. I guess because I am in the gardening business, I must have some inside track based on all kinds of things that are going on now in nature. Woolly bear caterpillars, acorns, etc.

My standard line is, “If you want me to tell you what the winter will be like, check back with me at the end of March!”

Despite all of the forecasting, we never really know what the winter will be like until it is over. All we can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best. This is particularly true when it comes to preparing our yard and gardens for the winter. For the next few weeks, let me go over some of the things you should be doing in your yard and gardens.

If you have fruit trees, ornamental flowering trees such as crab apple or pear, or any tree that you planted this past spring, there is danger lurking ahead this winter. Fruit trees and ornamental flowering trees have bark that is very tasty to rodents. When the cold weather of January through March sets in, rodents will eat the bark off the trunks. The sugar content in the bark makes for dandy food.

The problem is that many times the bark is eaten all around the trunk of the tree. When this happens, the tree loses its ability to take up food and water. Come spring, this girdling of the tree trunk causes the tree to die. You can prevent this by applying one of several different types of tree trunk protection. One type is a plastic wrap that is placed around the trunk of the tree. The plastic prevents the rodents from chewing the bark. You can also use a paper-based tree wrap. It is wrapped around the trunk from the ground up to the first set of branches.

Newly planted trees are also prone to damage from the winter sun. As the sun beats down on the trunk of the tree, the sun heats up the bark. As the sun sets, there is a rapid cooling of the bark, and the change in the temperature causes it to pop loose from the tree. The result is the same as when the rodents eat the bark off the tree. An application of tree wrap acts to prevent those sudden temperature changes that cause the bark to pop off the trees.

Wrapping tree trunks to prevent rodent damage or damage from sudden temperature changes is an easy project that can save you the cost of replacing one or more trees come the spring. It is something you should be doing as soon as possible. You never know when that first snowstorm will appear.

Speaking of snow, do you have someone who plows your driveway? Marking the edges of your driveway with reflectors and marking where there are shrubs next to your driveway will help the plow driver avoid damaging your lawn or shrubs. For many years, I plowed driveways, and believe me when I tell you that in a wind-driven blizzard, it can be almost impossible to see the edges of the driveway unless the edges are marked. As much as you hate to do so now, get the driveways markers in ASAP.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.