Tree Care

Arborist Advice: Preparing Your Landscape for Winter

By Arbor Day Foundation | December 7, 2017

Guest post by John Lang, certified arborist, Friendly Tree.

One of the best things you can do to ensure a beautiful, healthy and thriving spring landscape is to properly put your yard and plants to bed before the harsh weather arrives.

Whether you’re mourning summer’s end or unpacking your winter boots in anticipation of cooler days, these tips will help you prioritize what needs to be done before the snow flies.

In The Yard

  • Prune back shrubs in late fall (after a couple of frosts) to keep them protected from winds and heavy snow and encourage healthy spring growth.
  • Wait to prune and shape your trees until after they have gone dormant.
  • Harvest all fruit from trees and the ground to prevent them from rotting in the winter, attracting pests and diseases.
  • Mulch around your trees to help moderate the soil temperature and prevent the loss of moisture. Adding a good fertilizer will help promote root growth for robust new growth in the spring.
  • Wrapping your trees from top to bottom can help prevent sunscald and damage from deer and other animals throughout the winter.
  • Fall is the perfect time to plant new trees and shrubs. Young trees have a chance to become established before the heat of summer, and the cooler temperatures help promote new root growth.
  • Remove all diseased or dead branches and trees from the yard before they become a problem next year. If they’re too large or hard to reach, hire a certified tree removal company to do it for you.
  • Don’t forget to water your lawn, trees and perennials during dry spells. Even while dormant, plants need water to survive.
  • Rake leaves and dead grass periodically throughout the fall and winter. A buildup of debris on your lawn can harbor pests and fungal disease, prevent proper drainage and suffocate the grass below.
  • Aerating and fertilizing your lawn before winter sets in is a good way to stimulate root growth and encourage a healthy yard next spring.

In The Garden

  • Pull out vegetables and annuals that are done for the season and discard or compost them. Leaving them in the ground during the winter encourages pests and disease.
  • Remove any lingering weeds now; some weeds can overwinter and go to seed early the next spring.
  • Layer mulch on your garden beds and ornamental shrubs. Leaves or straw work well as a winter cover, or you can use burlap sacks, which should be removed in early spring. This helps the soil retain heat and moisture, while suppressing weed germination the following season.
  • Cut back on the amount of work next spring and prepare your garden beds now. Adding compost and manure in the fall allows the freezing and thawing cycle to work it into the soil for you.
  • Tilling garden soil before the ground freezes helps to prevent dormant insects from taking residence in your garden during the winter (and at the same time, provides a nice snack for the birds).

In The Tool Shed

  • Now’s the time to clean and disinfect garden tools and pots by removing caked on soil, rinsing them with bleach (to prevent the spread of disease), and storing them in a sheltered place.
  • Take note of which garden supplies need to be replenished and purchase them now at a discount!

When it comes to your yard, a little work now will make for a beautiful spring. When your landscape is properly “put to bed” for the winter, it will be healthier and require less maintenance next year, allowing you to sit back and enjoy spring’s show.


About the Author

John Lang is a Certified Arborist and a member of the Friendly Tree team, a family-owned New Jersey tree care service dedicated to the thoughtful and careful maintenance of your trees and shrubs. Friendly Tree Service has been in business for 26 years and remains passionate about trees and nature. With a highly trained staff that treats every property as their own and state of the art equipment, Friendly Tree is on the cutting edge of the art and science of Arboriculture.

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  • Reply Todd December 12, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Fantastic post. Lots of great tips here, and this is what I tell all my of customers during these months in Atlanta, when– as you can see in recent days with all the snow– it can get quite cold here.

  • Reply Tom Vanburg December 28, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Worked with guys at the Friendly Tree a couple of times in the past, definitely a knowledgeable bunch and love to teach their customers versus just selling them. Great read, thanks John

  • Reply Thomas Ruzics January 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

    The question , do you want to save the rain forest, is misdirected. . Of course we all want too. But it is not in our back yard. Not directly our problem.
    Our problem is that we are clear cutting the forests in all states with trees for new homes parking lots businesses etc . I sadly see this happening everywhere in Ohio and Florida, and I’m sure in other states.All these lots , acres, that add up to a lot of trees being cut. Maybe even areas as large as the rain forest. .This is our problem.
    Arbor Day Should work on this not someone else’s back yard but ours. It should be a law , Legislated .
    If you cut down trees for new development then the developer needs to plant trees to match what has been cut down. Environmentally sound principles.
    This should be Part of the American development code. This should be the project of the Arbor Day foundation.
    Thanks for reading.

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