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How to Winterize Your Yard: Protecting Trees and Shrubs

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DIFFICULTY RATING: (1 out of 5 - Beginner)

Proper pruning and protection of shrubs and trees will help them survive the winter months, and will lead to healthy growth come spring.
Burlap (Buy) Mulch (Buy)
Pruning shears (Buy) Rake (Buy)
Staple gun (Buy) Staples (Buy)
Twine (Buy) Wooden tent (Buy)

Wear gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, and safety glasses when pruning.

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Step 1: Identify shrubs and prune accordingly.
Shrubs that bloom in the spring should be pruned immediately after flowering. Shrubs that bloom in the summer should be pruned during the dormant winter months. Shrubs should not be pruned late in the growing season as it will promote new growth that can be damaged by winter frost.

Prune summer-blooming shrubs during the dormant winter season.

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Step 2: Cut weak, dead and damaged branches.
Use pruning shears to cut away weak, dead and damaged branches. Always cut a branch where it grows from the stem or live shoot. Cut the stem at an angle and leave a small branch bark collar.

Cut the stem at an angle.

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Step 3: Thin out old growth.
Use shears to thin out old, scraggly growth and crowded branches. Remove excessive, small inside branches to open the plant up without stimulating new growth.

Remove crossed, crowded branches.

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Step 4: Cut away low branches.
At the bottom of the shrub, cut away crowding branches that are too low. Be sure to leave healthy shoots that serve as the main structure of the shrub.

Trim away the bottom branches that are too low to the ground.

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Step 5: Carefully prune rose bushes.
For rose bushes, first cut away dead wood. Then, remove thin branches that compete with the healthy branches. Choose 4 or 6 of the healthy branches, and shorten them by about one-third to one-half of their total height. To further protect a rose bush, clear away debris from under the bush and spread mulch or hay around the base, piled at least a foot high. Never spread before November, as rose bushes need exposure to cool temperatures to build hardiness.

Cut away the thin branches on a rose bush.

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Step 6: Select an appropriate ground covering for your plants.
The right ground covering depends on region, climate, and the plants that need protecting. Good organic mulches include peat moss, wheat-free straw, bark mulch, or wood chips. Mulching protects roots and prevents rapid fluctuations in soil temperatures.

Choose an appropriate organic mulch.

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Step 7: Wrap shrubs in burlap to prevent frost damage.
If frost has been in a problem in the past, consider wrapping your shrubs in burlap. The plant should be completely wrapped and the burlap secured with twine.

Secure the burlap with twine.

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Step 8: Protect against snow and wind with a tent.
Protection against high wind, snow and ice is best achieved with a tent, a wooden structure constructed to form a "V." The wooden frame is covered with burlap that is stapled to the frame and placed over the shrub to protect it against the winter elements.

Shield shrubs with a burlap-covered, wooden tent.

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Text by Benjamin Hardy
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