Don’t Let Spring Give Your Trees a Cold Shoulder: Protecting trees and shrubs in the event of a late freeze

by | Mar 8, 2017

It’s only early March, and we’ve already seen a few weeks of spring here in North Carolina. Unseasonably warm weather is bringing singing birds, insects and early tree blooms with it. While this is a welcome sight to many, some fear a late freeze may damage those tender buds, affecting the tree (and in some cases, fruit crop) for the remainder of the year.

Cherry blossoms and other flowering trees are starting to bloom in parts of the state, but a hard freeze could damage the blooms. 

While a hard freeze may not be in our near future, there’s still the possibility for one well into April. Preparing yourself now with how you react may save your beautiful trees.

First of all, who needs protecting? Trees and shrubs with springtime flowers, such as azalea or cherry, may need some extra TLC if Jack Frost makes a return. Also, if fruit trees have bloomed, protecting those blooms may save some future fruit.

Until the threat of a freeze passes, you should avoid fertilizing trees. Stimulating tender growth will only present more tissue to be damaged. Once a freeze is on the radar, be sure to thoroughly water the soil.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but this will ensure they have adequate water and the water will aid in insulation to the soil and plant. Because large shrubs or trees can’t be brought indoors, they can be covered with fabric such as Grandma’s old bedsheets or large pieces of burlap. Large trees may require a bit more imagination to be accomplished! The fabric should touch the ground and it’s best if a frame keeps the fabric from touching the plant itself.

Most of all, don’t fret. A hard freeze may affect your current beautiful blooms or upcoming fruit harvest, but it should not cause long-term damage to the tree. Once your trees begin re-growing, assess and prune out any permanently damaged branches.

Hopefully we won’t see the plunge into the cold temperatures again this year, but if we learned anything from Mother Nature this winter, it’s that she has a mind of her own!