Now that the leaves have dropped from most of our fruit plants there are still a few chores left to do to prepare trees for frigid winter weather.
Northern Utah has enjoyed some recent rains and our soils are mostly damp. The soil around fruit trees and small fruit plants should remain moist going into the winter. Consider giving your fruit plants a small amount of water every couple of weeks or so until the soil freezes. Usually about Thanksgiving.
The basal three to four feet of young fruit trees need to be protected from injury. This can be done by painting the trunk with diluted white interior-grade latex paint. Mix paint one to one with water, stir well and apply with a brush or a rag. Alternatively, trees can be wrapped with craft paper, burlap strips, or white mesh tapes that are available commercially.
In winters with heavy snow cover mice and rabbits can gnaw on the bark of fruit trees. Trunks can be protected with a cylinder of half-inch mesh hardware cloth. Cut an 18 inch square of hardware cloth, bend it into a cylinder and fasten around the tree trunk. Strawberry plants need to be mulched to protect them through the winter. Straw is the best mulch. Apply two to four inches of clean straw as the soil freezes to protect the grounds from fluctuating winter temperatures. Don’t use leaves or other materials that can matte down on the grounds.
Pruning should be postponed until after the first of the year. This includes fruit trees, grapes and raspberries. Fall pruning delays plant acclimating to cold winter conditions and may predispose plants to winter injury. Taking care of these fall chores will help your plants survive Utah’s cold winters and will set them up for success next spring.
This is Teryl Roper, Extension Pomologist at Utah State University.