With trees it manifests itself in heavy seed production, early fall color, early leaf drop, bumper crops of apples, limb dieback and yellowing or browning of needles and leaves.
These are several things the gardener can do to help their trees and shrubs. First and most important: water. Keep watering any trees and shrubs planted in the last five years until the soil freezes. Remember to drain the hose after each use. Thawing a frozen hose is a miserable job. Mulch everything. Mulch not only helps keep moisture in the soil, it keeps the soil warmer for longer in the fall giving roots longer to feed the plants. It also keeps the soil from alternately thawing and freezing. Minnesotans know about frost heaves. You don’t want your newly planted tree, your rose bush or iris to be pushed out of the soil by the frost to be “winter burned.”
Young maples and other thin barked trees need protection from the winter sun. Sun scald can result in cracking bark, permanently damaging the tree. Either wrap the stem, put a tube around it (which must be removed in the spring), or paint the south and east side of the trunk with thinned white latex paint. You may need to protect the tree from mice, voles and deer who like to treat new trees like lunch in the winter. A tube of hardware cloth up to the first branch is the best bet. It won’t need to be removed until the trunk gets nearly the same diameter as the wire. This, along with a paint job, is double protection and doesn’t require any removal in the spring when you are busy with other chores.
Don’t forget the birds. Feeding the winter birds encourages you to get off your dead end and go outside. There are a few things you should never feed birds. Cheap peanuts can contain a toxin fatal to them. Dried coconut can swell in the stomach and kill the eater. They don’t need salt, so no salty or spicy stuff like bacon and taco chips. No vegetable oils or moldy food (if you won’t eat it, don’t give it to the birds). And chocolate, you eat that. It is bad for most animals and birds. Besides, it has gotten too expensive to share.
Get out now and get the garden and yard ready for winter. Too soon, we will be hip deep to a tall basketball player in the white stuff.