Protecting your new trees from freezing temperatures is crucial to their survival. If left unprotected, your trees can face life-threatening damage, so it is important to do what you can to keep them healthy and thriving despite freezing weather events. Below you will find our recommendations on how to protect your trees in both the spring and fall seasons. Although nothing is guaranteed, these protective measures should give your trees a better chance of survival through a freeze event.
Before we get into the “how-to,” it’s important to note that buying your trees from a reputable source can be critical to their success in the future. At Chestnut Hill, we pride ourselves on only sending trees at the correct time for your region, as well as only sending the correct varieties for your region. This not only ensures that you’ll be set up for success from the start but also helps navigate issues like freeze protection while trees are still young. For more information on when your mail-order trees will ship during our spring and fall shipping seasons, please visit our Ordering & Shipping page.
SPRING SHIPPING SEASON
During the spring shipping season, we ship dormant, bare-root trees. Once you receive your trees, there are a few scenarios during which they can be at risk of a fatal freeze.
FREEZE PROTECTION FOR DORMANT TREES
When you receive your new trees, they will be dormant. If you’re expecting a freeze and your trees are still dormant, this is not a problem. Dormant trees can withstand freezing temperatures and still leaf out successfully once spring hits, but the root systems are susceptible to freeze damage.
Since we do our best to ship to each region at the appropriate time, the ground should be thawed and ready for you to plant your new trees as soon as they arrive. However, if when you receive your trees the ground is still frozen, be sure to store them in a cool place, such as a basement or root cellar. Do not allow the roots to freeze because this will kill your trees. Keep the roots slightly moist, but not too wet or they will mold. The trees will stay dormant until the ground is warm enough to plant.
FREEZE PROTECTION FOR LEAFED OUT TREES
If your trees start to leaf out and you’re expecting a freeze in the late spring, this does pose more of a risk. If left unprotected, the freezing temperatures could kill that new foliage and possibly cause long-term damage to your trees. If you find yourself in this scenario, it is crucial that you do what you can to protect your trees. While nothing can be guaranteed, using certain protective measures will increase the likelihood that your trees will survive through the freeze. See below for a couple of protection methods we recommend:
Frost cloth, if applied correctly, is a great way to protect your tree and its new leaves from freezing temperatures. Frost cloth is a commercially woven fabric that allows for enough airflow and sunlight but can shield your trees from the cold. Do ensure that you’re using frost cloth designed for plants. Using another material in its place is not recommended as it could cause more damage and not protect the trees correctly. For more information on frost cloth and how to correctly place it, click here.
Grow Tubes are plastic, translucent tubes that act as mini-greenhouses that protect and nurture the growth of young trees until they are big enough to survive on their own. Grow tubes provide many benefits to young, growing plants including freeze protection. Find grow tube installation instructions here. Also, learn more about the benefits of using grow tubes here.
Although temperatures may be warming up, it’s important to keep your eye on weather reports to correctly prepare for a late spring freeze. Northern regions can see freezes as late as Memorial Day. One of the resources we use to track late frost risk is the Old Farmer’s Almanac. You can look up your region and find the average final frost date.
Find more information on how to plant your bare root tree here.
FALL SHIPPING SEASON
In the fall, we ship containerized trees. When you receive your trees, they will still have leaves on them and will be actively growing. As temperatures cool down heading into the winter months, the leaves on your trees will naturally start to brown and fall off. This is a normal process as the trees go into dormancy for the winter months. However, it’s important to protect the roots of your trees from freezing temperatures because the root system will continue to grow and thrive while the trees are dormant.
When you receive your trees, we recommend that you plant them as soon as possible. Once the trees are in the ground, that should provide adequate protection from the cold temperatures if planted with enough time to get established before the cold arrives. For extra protection after planting, you can rake organic leaf material toward the base of the trees. This will act as a natural insulator, as well as retain moisture. We also recommend the use of grow tubes, as they have a mild greenhouse effect.
If you are not able to plant your trees before the ground freezes, you will need to protect your trees’ root systems from the freezing temperatures. The best way to do this is to bring your containerized trees into an area that you know will not freeze. If you do not have a greenhouse on your property, you can put the trees in a garage, a basement, or somewhere indoors. If left outside in the container, the roots will freeze and your trees will face heavy damage and possibly not survive.
Find more information on how to plant your containerized trees here.
If you need more information on freeze protection, please contact our office.