It’s November and I have just planted a globe blue spruce standard with a weeping Norway spruce grafted below. It is in the open and exposed to the elements. Should I be providing some sort of winter protection to it?
A. Winter Protection
One of the first things you might want to consider is staking the tree. If ice and snow accumulate on the branches it could literally be uprooted as it has not yet developed an extensive root system to hold it in place. Use a figure 8 tie and remember to remove the stake next spring. We don’t recommend long-term staking of any tree. They are designed to sway and bend with the wind and will develop roots appropriately.
For winter protection the common procedure now is to build a sort of enclosure, like a burlap snow fence, which will block some snow and wind but let the sunshine in. usually only on 2- 3 sides, whichever are the most exposed (usually the windy side and southern side to prevent sun scalding). Think of protection from wind etc, not to keep the plant warm.
Throughout the winter, keep your trees and shrubs clear of snow. Knock the snow off with a broom before it freezes and becomes heavy enough to damage the branches.
To give evergreen shrubs even more protection, wrap their branches with twine to streamline their shape and keep the snow from building up. You would leave an air space of about 18-24″ between it and the tree.
Most enclosures would be built with wood stakes & burlap. This is only done for the first 2 years. After that, it is expected that the tree should be able to withstand the rigors of the winter, provided it is healthy and growing properly. If you left enough of airspace, you could probably enclose the 4 sides the first year.
Make sure you have watered it really well before the ground freezes up- desiccation is the most common cause of young ( or even older) trees dying over the winter/spring.
Mulch a 2-foot ring around the truck to a depth of 6-8″ but NOT touching the trunk! This will help to moderate temperature swings in the soil and maintain moisture for the root system. The best mulch is arborist wood chips.
Remember also to think of hungry rodents and consider wrapping the base of the trunk up to the first branches to prevent nibbling and possibly girdling it over the winter.