To wrap or not to wrap, that is the question. Since about four or five years ago, there has been much discontent on if we should wrap the trunks of our younger trees in order to protect them from sunscald damage.
There is some research that does provide only more questions whether this technique works or not while many of us sage gardeners have experience that yes, it does work.
I think we can come to a conclusion that will help each gardener approach this on an individual basis.
First, you need to know which trees have the most problems with sunscald, otherwise known as frost cankers. Frost cankers must be defined carefully so we don't confuse them with frost cracks. What is the difference? Frost cankers are found mostly on the south to southwest side of the tree. Frost cracks are found all over the tree and tend to be much deeper than frost cankers.
Maples, crabapples and lindens will be the top trees to consider for whether or not you wrap your tree this winter. I have also seen, in my experience, that locust trees can also have some problems with frost cankers as well.
Frost cankers appear to happen around the last part of the winter. This is the time of the year that you can feel the strength of the winter's sun rays improving. This is the time when most susceptible trees are at the most risk.
The warming of the sun rays on the bark of the trees and the rapid cool down when the sun goes to bed is really the cause of our troubles in this particular situation.
Tree wraps tend to work to some extent as shown in some of the research that has been done. However, where we have problems is when we leave the wraps on too long which invites the tree to 'sweat' or trap moisture.
It also invites our friends the insects to come to a place that they find it nifty to hide and also have lunch on the tree while they are at it.
Tree wraps that are left on also inhibit a tree's ability to produce photosynthesis as a young tree. Yep, they need to get sun to that trunk until the trunk bark is too thick for the sun's rays to slip through.
Research has shown there are a few things we can do in a positive way, whether we choose to wrap or not to wrap. According to Gary Johnson, Urban and Community Forestry of Minnesota, water that tree until the ground freezes.
Choose that location carefully for that new tree - don't invite disaster to the tree in the first place.
And finally, take care of that tree by properly trimming it, and keep away from the trunk with the lawn mower or weed wacker.
Any damage to the tree's bark will only add to the problems during the long, cold winter months.
What do I do? I have several young maple trees that I have been using tinfoil on them-shiny side out, please! I take the wrap off of the tree in April or sooner - depending on our winters - and since they have been warm - earlier than usual.
This is a tip that a sage, old gardener gave me, but with the warning. Don't forget to take it off in the springtime or all of your work will have been for nothing. The tree will be like a baked potato!
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