How to keep trees from freezing

How to Protect Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs from Frost

One of the joys of planting a new tree is getting to experience all the “firsts.” The first spring bud break, the first fall color change, or the first flush of tasty fruit.

And then there’s your tree’s first few winters. Frankly, they can be tough to get through. Young trees are much more vulnerable to cold weather damage than mature ones, so they need extra help from you to bear the elements.

Below, get tips on protecting newly planted trees and shrubs from frost damage.

Best Way To Protect Trees From Frost

The key to protecting newly planted trees from winter damage is shielding them from harsh elements—from the top of the canopy down to the roots.

Fruit trees and any trees with thin bark are especially vulnerable to an issue called sun-scald. During a warm winter day, tree bark heats up, causing the tissue under the bark to take a quick break from dormancy. But as soon as the sun sets and freezing temperatures swoop in, that tissue under the bark freezes to death. As a result, large, sunken areas develop on the bark.

And, sadly, the damage doesn’t stop there. Freezing temps can also damage a fruit tree’s buds, making it harder for the tree to produce fruit next spring.

But, if you’re proactive, protecting young fruit trees in the winter is possible. Before temperatures drop, do this:

  1. Wrap the tree’s trunk with a plastic tree guard or any other opaque protective tree wrap you find at your garden store. This will protect the tree from sun scald.
  2. Use a frost shield for fruit trees, also known as an anti-transparent. Spraying fruit tree canopies with frost shield coats the tree with a protective film that helps minimize moisture loss.

How To Protect Newly Planted Shrubs From Frost

Oftentimes we plant shrubs to create a privacy screen around our yards. But of course, those shrubs need to be in good health to do their job!

Protect shrubs against winter injury by taking these few steps in the fall:

  1. Thoroughly water your shrubs all the way up until the ground freezes. Here’s how much water newly planted trees and shrubs need.
  2. Seal in moisture by covering your shrub’s bed in a 2-to-4-inch layer of mulch.
  3. Wrap shrubs in loose material like burlap to shield them from harsh wind. Here are two ways to wrap your shrubs before winter.

What Temperature To Cover Plants

Most plants are just fine as long as the temperature is 30 degrees F or higher. Freeze damage can happen when the temperature drops down to the mid-to-low-twenties, and plants are definitely at risk when temps sink under 20 degrees.

To be safe, protect your plants with tree guards or burlap before the temperature is consistently below 30 degrees.

How To Protect Plants From A Late Frost

No trees respond well to a sudden temperature drop, but newly planted trees can really take a hit if mild springtime elements abruptly turn cold. (If you didn’t know, here’s why trees do not appreciate fluctuating temperatures.)

Planning ahead, and having tools like mulch and burlap on hand, can help with the shock of a late spring frost. To protect trees and shrubs from a sudden shift in weather, follow these steps:

  1. Keep an eye on the forecast to track any expected drops in temperature.
  2. The day before a freezing day, thoroughly water your plant.
  3. Mulch to lock in moisture and prevent frost heaving. In a nutshell, frost heaving is when soil thaws and freezes over and over, causing roots to lift up above ground and become exposed to injuring, cold weather. This is a particular problem for young trees during their first couple winters, since their roots are still shallow.
  4. For extra protection, carefully cover the plant with burlap (here’s how!) or a bed sheet if it’s small enough. Be sure to remove that cover first thing the next morning so your plant doesn’t overheat.

When To Remove Tree Wrap

Protective tree wraps aren’t meant to stay on all year. Here’s how you know it’s time to take off tree wrap in spring.

Did your evergreen shrub turn brown in winter? Here’s how to spot and prevent evergreen winter burn.


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Protecting trees and shrubs in winter

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Quick facts

Minnesota's harsh climate can cause severe damage to landscape plants.

  • Winter sun, wind and cold temperatures can
    • bleach and dry out evergreen foliage,
    • damage bark, and
    • injure or kill branches, flower buds, and roots.
  • Snow and ice can break branches and topple entire trees.
  • Salt used for deicing streets, sidewalks and parking lots is harmful to landscape plants.
  • Winter food shortages force rodents and deer to feed on bark, twigs, flower buds and leaves, injuring and sometimes killing trees and shrubs.

Here are steps you can take to protect trees and shrubs and minimize injury.

Cold damage

Causes of cold damage on plants include:

  • Lack of plant hardiness and inability to survive extreme cold.
    • Much of Minnesota is located in USDA cold hardiness zones 3 (-40 degrees F) and 4 (-30 degrees F).
  • Extreme winter conditions such as ice storms, wind and prolonged sub-zero temperatures.
    • The weight of snow and ice can break branches.
    • Wind can dry out plants, especially evergreens.
  • Lack of snow.
    • Snow cover insulates plants from wind and sub-zero temperatures.
  • Environmental stresses.
    • Dry conditions going into the winter can make plant tissues more susceptible to cold damage, especially on evergreens.

Winter injury to deciduous trees


Winter injury to evergreens


Damage caused by snow, ice and salt


Reducing animal damage on trees and shrubs

Rabbit damage on winged Euonymous

Mice, rabbits, voles and deer can all cause severe damage to plants in the winter by feeding on twigs, bark, leaves and stems. They can eat shrubs to the ground and also girdle trees and shrubs by chewing through the bark.

The best overall strategy for protecting your trees and shrubs from animal browsing is to reduce areas of habitat and use physical barriers to prevent them from getting to your plants.


Blueberry shrubs fenced against animal damage Fencing should be buried 2 to 3 inches

Authors: Gary R. Johnson, retired Extension forester, Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator, Richard Rideout, Ed Sucoff and Bert T. Swanson

Reviewed in 2018

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How to protect the garden from frost

Saving berry crops

Berry crops can suffer the most from the cold. They are closest to the ground, and there the temperature is always lower than at a height of 1-3 meters. At a temperature of minus 4, flowers and ovaries may die. If there is no wind, and the night is clear already 0 - minus 2 can be dangerous for plants.

Opened strawberry flowers die at a temperature of minus 1-1.5. Therefore, if there is a threat of frost, it must be covered in the evening with film, paper, burlap, matting, hay, straw. If you cover with a film, then it should not touch the flowers, otherwise there will be no benefit - they will freeze anyway. But if you lay a layer of straw or grass between them, it will be just right, you get such a warm blanket.

We remove the coating no earlier than 9 am. In lowlands, deep depressions, on the lower parts of the slope, in clearings in the forest, the danger of frost is greater, therefore, in such places, plants must be covered for several days in a row.

To protect currant and gooseberry bushes, wrap them with burlap, film or paper.

Plants grown in unheated film greenhouses (we talked about how to build them ourselves in the last issue) must also be covered from recurrent frosts. We save the planted seedlings of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini with paper caps, burlap or other opaque materials.

Let's also not forget that the plants should be watered abundantly in the evening.

Small-drop irrigation

But what about fruit trees, because their flowers and ovaries are also vulnerable to sudden frosts?

Unfortunately, such a universal coating that can protect an adult apple or pear tree has not yet been invented. Here another effective method is suitable - small-drop sprinkling.

To a person ignorant of horticultural matters, such a method may seem, to put it mildly, barbaric. Douse trees before frost?! No, no, he says, never! And it won't be right. Sprinkler frost protection is based on the fact that each drop of water, when frozen, gives off heat to the environment. If the trees are moistened so that there is always water on the surface of the leaves for freezing, the heat released by the droplets will be enough to compensate for the temperature changes in the environment.

How to do small drop irrigation? We install nozzles on the hoses with the smallest possible spray - and we begin the careful spraying of tree crowns. At the same time, we try to make sure that intense "rain" covers the surface of flowering or fading trees throughout the entire time of freezing. So we are getting ready for a sleepless night: the thermometer will drop to the lowest mark only at the end of the night. Oversleep - then you will reproach yourself.

Spraying must be completed one hour before sunrise, otherwise the plants will turn black and die when exposed to sunlight.

Sprinkling helps to protect flowers and ovaries from frost damage even at air temperatures down to minus 4-5 degrees. Remember that sprinkling should not be carried out in strong winds. Wind increases evaporation and, accordingly, increases the risk of frost damage to plants. If the wind is stronger than 5 m/s, it is better not to sprinkle. And one more thing: if leaves have not yet appeared on your plants, sprinkling against frost will not protect, but, on the contrary, will destroy the trees.

Installing smoke screens

Smoke curtains are an old and proven way to protect trees and shrubs from frost.

Heaps of wood shavings and chips, fallen leaves, peat are laid out between the trees and set on fire. From above we cover the fire with sawdust, grass, we put sod, earth on the flame. The main thing is more smoke.

If frosts are expected at night, then we lay out 6-9 smoke piles on the site and set them on fire a couple of hours after sunset. For greater effect, it is best to negotiate with the neighbors in the area - it is more useful for plants to "smoke" the company.

If, 30 minutes after sunrise, the temperature does not fall below minus 1.5, we disassemble the piles (but not completely) and extinguish. They may come in handy this spring more than once.

Hilling up

In order to protect, for example, potato seedlings from the cold, they should be covered with a small layer of soil. This is a simple but also effective way to deal with frost.

Feeding plants before testing

Flowering plants are best strengthened from the inside by feeding them before frost. To do this, foliar top dressing should be done from a solution of potash and phosphorus mineral fertilizers (3-4% potassium sulfate and 4-5% superphosphate). Top dressing increases the concentration of cell sap, which increases the resistance of fruit plantations to freezing. Don't forget to spray the plants the night before or 2-3 hours before frost.

After drip irrigation, flowering fruit trees were covered with icicles. But it is not dangerous for them.

by the way

Late? Don't panic

If you haven't kept track of the weather and the plants are frozen, don't rush to pull everything out and throw it away. Thoroughly water the soil around and spray with one of the growth stimulants. Perhaps the plants will get sick and come to life - there have been such cases, and more than once.

little tricks


1. A threaded neck from a small plastic bottle (for shampoo, water) and a cork from it will help to secure the edges of the greenhouse's plastic cover. The jammed film is not damaged.

2. Rubber rings 20-30 mm wide, cut from a car tube, and rope extensions with such rings will not allow the plastic film of the greenhouse to sag. The same rings with extensions press the film from above.

3. When arranging a greenhouse, stretch a twine mesh with mesh sizes of approximately 50 by 50 mm over the frames, cover it with a film, and also stretch the mesh from above. You can fix the film and mesh with a rail and nails.

4. Two polyethylene strips laid crosswise on the bottom of the pot with seedling soil will help to extract the plant from the root without damage.

5. If you happen to have an old volleyball net, don't throw it away. When arranging a large greenhouse, stretch the mesh over its frame, cover it with a film, stretch the mesh from above and hang a suitable load below.

Do you have simple tips that can make it easier for other readers of "RG" - Weeks "household chores? Then write and do not forget, by the way, to attach a picture - a description of your rationalization proposal.

We are waiting for your letters to the address: 125993, Moscow, st. Pravdy, d. 24, "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", department of letters. On the envelope, do not forget to make a note "Little tricks."

Five ways to protect trees and seedlings from frost

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Dom. FamilyGarden and garden: useful tipsMy wonderful dacha: A healthy garden all year round


May 8, 2015 1:35

The weather can be very unpredictable. And although folk signs say that when the birch blossoms, there will be no more frosts, this does not always happen. How to protect your landings from the cold

Apples, pears and other fruit trees can all "provoke" frosts. Low temperatures destroy pistils and stamens, ovaries and leaves of seedlings. But not only cherry. Apples, pears and other fruit trees can all "provoke" frosts. Low temperatures destroy pistils and stamens, ovaries and seedling leaves. And hence the future harvest.

It is clear that berry bushes are more susceptible to frosts, since the temperature near the soil surface is lower than at a distance of 2-3 meters from the ground. But at the same time, the delicate flowers of the apple tree are already damaged at a temperature of - 1.7 degrees. And gooseberries and currants can withstand up to -2 degrees. But the younger the bushes, the more sensitive they are to cold.

There are several ways to protect trees and seedlings from low temperatures.

1. Wrap.

Do not plant seedlings of tender crops such as peppers or tomatoes simply in normal soil, even in greenhouses. If there is no greenhouse (that is, pillows made of rotted manure, which, as it were, warms the greenhouse and plants from the inside), it is advisable to keep the seedlings at home until the frost has definitely passed.

If, nevertheless, it happened to plant seedlings of peppers and tomatoes in greenhouses, but not greenhouses, try to save them from frost with covering material and smoke bombs. Put thick wire arcs that will become a mini-frame for a 2-in-1 greenhouse. Throw covering material on these frames. Some use old coats, sweaters, rugs, but special material is better.

Inside, on both sides, place smoke bombs that will "beat" the frost, preventing it from destroying the roots, as well as the ovaries and tender leaves. If, despite all your measures, the pistils and tender upper leaves still turned black, agronomists advise throwing away spoiled seedlings without pity, because you still can’t get an early harvest from it. It will be easier to buy a new one than to nurse a frozen one.

2. Heating.

There is another way, conditionally called "Chinese", because it is often used by the Chinese, who grow vegetables and fruits in Russia. A hole is cut in the lid of an enameled bucket, into which a conditional pipe is inserted. It is brought out of the greenhouse, and 2-3 large pieces of coal are ignited in a bucket. Such a "stove" is able to heat a small greenhouse even at severe sub-zero temperatures. A small portable stove and even a barbecue will do, the main thing is to cover it from above and holes from the sides so that the coals do not get on the seedlings.

3. Shelter.

Shrubs can be covered with foil or the same covering material before frost. They also need to be thrown onto arcs installed around the bushes. If using cling film, make sure that there is no contact with the leaves, otherwise the morning dew can kill the delicate greens. Smoke bombs installed inside such domes will also help.

4. Bonfires.

Trees are saved with fires. This is perhaps the most time- and effort-consuming method. Firstly, they use raw firewood, wet straw, hay or tree branches that do not just burn, but smoke, smoke, so that the smoke spreads above the ground, protecting shrubs and trees. This is especially important for young trees, whose roots have not yet gone deep into the ground and which frost can easily kill.

Secondly, you need to make sure that the fires do not flare up, so that the smoke retains the desired density. To do this, I advise experienced gardeners to build a "smoke hut" - that is, put two or three large logs or stakes in a triangle, inside which firewood will burn, and pour wet grass, hay, straw, tops outside. In general, everything that is at hand.

Thirdly, the distance between the fire and the trees should be at least 4-5 meters (so as not to accidentally damage the roots). At the same time, the smoke should, as it were, wrap the whole garden with a blanket. Therefore, often gardeners do not sleep all night.

Still, this method is still not very effective if the air temperature is expected to be below minus 3 degrees.

5. Irrigation.

Fine watering can most effectively protect delicate shrubs from frost - moist soil cools less and transmits heat well. It is especially effective if the temperature does not fall below 3 degrees of frost.

On the eve of frost, it is necessary to water the ground abundantly, and precisely with finely dispersed sprinkling. This will provide the necessary evaporation, which will help protect the leaves and roots from frost. Very effective with smoke fires.


Frost harbingers - dry, calm weather, a sharp drop in temperature in the evening. The pressure is rising, the sky is clearing, the stars are pouring out. There is complete silence in nature, even the nightingales and frogs stop singing.

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