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Winterize Cedars: Show your hedges some love

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Winterize Cedars: Show your hedges some love

Winterize Cedars: Essential Guide for Hedge Lovers

The process of winterizing cedar trees is a crucial aspect of their care, particularly in the face of harsh Toronto winters. Protecting your cedars from frost damage and preventing ice buildup can be challenging, but with careful planning, it is achievable.

Last winter, heavy, wet snow in February and March resulted significant damage and destruction to hedges and shrubs across the city. Well into the spring it was common to see cedar hedges drooping over, or entirely uprooted by the weight of the snow. Cedars that are planted close to houses, tightly planted together or very tall  or flat on top are more susceptible to this type of damage. 

Importance of Winterizing Cedars

Why should you bother to winterize cedar rees? As we approach the colder months, you may find yourself asking this question. However, preparing these resilient evergreens for the onslaught of frosty temperatures is not just about survival – it’s about ensuring they continue to thrive amidst freezing conditions and heavy snowfalls.

Repairing damaged hedges can cost time and money – damaged hedges may be able to be patched back together, but this may involve more aggressive pruning or loss of limbs that create holes in the hedge which may take quite some time to grow back. Replanting cedars is costly, and there is no guarantee that newly planted trees will survive where others did. Emerald cedars in particular can be quite fussy about where they will grow. 

The best and least costly option is preventative maintenance: make sure your cedar hedges are prepared for the winter before it happens.

Timing: Fall to Late Autumn or Early Winter

Preparing cedars and other trees for harsh weather means acting before the weather arrives. November and December are ideal times for winterizing cedars, as the weather has cooled enough to ensure that the trees are dormant. Pruning early can sometimes result in hedges or shrubs putting on a second flush of growth right before winter, which isn’t ideal timing. 

Impact of Harsh Winters on Cedars

Cedar trees are beautiful year-round additions to any landscape, but without proper protection during severe winters in places like Toronto, they could suffer extensive damage due to relentless sub-zero temperatures and snow or ice build up. It is crucial for caretakers to understand how these environmental factors can cause long-term harm if ignored or treated improperly.

“The Emerald Cedar’s vulnerability in winter isn’t a weakness but rather an invitation for us as caretakers to provide appropriate care and ensure it thrives even under challenging conditions.”

– Vista Tree Management Expert

Brace your cedars for Toronto’s frosty winters. Our guide on winterizing cedar trees helps protect them from freeze damage and ensures they thrive even in heavy snow. #CedarCare #WinterTips Click to Tweet

Tips to Protect and Winterize Cedars

When it comes to winterizing cedar trees in Toronto, proper care is crucial to ensure their survival and health during the cold months. In this guide, we will provide expert tips on pruning, protection measures, and special care techniques to help you keep your cedar trees thriving. 

6 Ways to Protect Cedars Against Harsh Winter Conditions

  1. Maintain a regular pruning schedule: By removing weak branches before winter arrives, you minimize the potential damage caused by heavy snow accumulation. 
  2. Trim out dead and remove needles: Remove dead, dying, damaged branches and loose needles and leaves. Removing excess deadwood buildup will give snow and ice less opportunity to attach and ensure ideal conditions for next spring.
  3. Install tree wraps or burlap screens around your Emerald cedar or other cedars: These act as windbreaks, reducing damage from harsh winds and preventing branch breakage under heavy snow loads. Burlap also acts as an anti-dessicant, allowing the plant to retain moisture and reducing the likelihood of damage from the shifting temperatures.
  4. Install wires, guys, braces or props: Sometimes the best solution involves carefully installing arbor wire or micro cables to support the branches and stems of your cedar hedges. Occasionally, a brace, guy or prop can be installed temporarily to ensure support to trees over the course of a winter, preventing the possibility of trees falling or limbs breaking. Feature trees and prized hedges can be assessed for this service. These non-destructive techniques provide support for plants, and can be removed in future or re-installed in other locations to ensure that hedges and shrubs are protected during difficult conditions.
  5. Install Mulch: Help to conserve soil moisture, defend against salt and protect the tree.
  6. Adequate Water: In early to late fall, ensure your cedars and other hedges are getting enough water. If the trees are too dry come winter, they’ll be under greater stress. If the ground is too wet, it may be more prone to freezing quickly or result in damage to roots that only becomes obvious in the next spring. 

Key Takeaway: 

Winterizing cedar trees in Toronto demands diligent care. With expert tips on pruning and protection measures, your cedars can thrive even through harsh winters. For Cedars, their vulnerability to heavy snowfall is not a weakness but an opportunity for us to provide the right care. Using tree wraps or burlap screens as windbreaks and maintaining regular

Pruning Techniques for Cedar Trees: A Key Aspect of Winter Tree Care

When caring for cedar trees, pruning is an essential element in keeping them healthy and living long. In areas with considerable snowfall, pruning is especially important as it can help prevent the breakage of branches due to ice accumulation.

Ensuring your cedars and other hedges are in top condition prior to winter is important. A regular maintenance schedule can ensure the structure of the trees is suitable to the growing condition and that any weak or damaged branches are removed or supported before they break. Keeps cedar trees in excellent health and beauty involves routine maintenance to avoid costly and unsightly damage from winter weather.

Trimming out dead Cedar Branches and Needles

Emerald Cedars, among other varieties, require careful attention during the trimming process. Pruning should always start with identifying and removing dead or damaged branches, twigs and needles. The build up of dead branches on the inside of hedges can act like a net, catching snow and ice that may lead to breaks or holes. Careful pruning of dead twigs and branches and removal of excess dead needles will reduce the weight of trees as well as allow light and airflow. 

  • Remove dead twigs and branches: Cut out any dead branches, even large twigs. Don’t leave stubs, but don’t cut too close to the trunk.
  • Remove buildup of dead needles: Shake out dead needles, pull dead needles, leaves and buildup away from the trunk and dispose of the debris.
  • Cut outside the branch bark collar: When pruning cedar trees, it’s crucial to follow proper techniques. Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar, without leaving stubs. Excessive pruning can lead to weakened cedar trees, making them more vulnerable to winter elements.

This approach ensures that your cedar remains healthy while minimizing risks associated with winter weather conditions. But remember – proper pruning is just one aspect of winterizing your cedars; wrapping or insulation methods offer additional protection against harsh winters as we will discuss next.

Cedar Burlap Wrapping:

 Wrap the trunks of young cedar trees with burlap or tree wrap to shield them from harsh winds and extreme temperature fluctuations. This will help prevent sunscald and frost cracks. For more mature trees, hedges and shrubs, you can wrap the entire plant in burlap to protect it. Burlap can be purchased from any number of stores, or you can have a professional tree company install it in fall and remove it in spring for you. 

Burlap is an environmentally friendly, economical way to protect cedars and other hedges during winter. 

Wiring a Cedar Tree, or Using Props, Braces and Guys

Cedar wiring is something that many attempt on their own, but without realizing that improper installation can significantly harm trees. Wires should not be wrapped around an individual trunk, too tight or too low. To ensure physics is on your side, you need to locate the wires at least 2/3 of the way up the tree or branch you’re looking to support. 

Wires allow stems, branches and whole trees to be brought together and supported to prevent drooping or separation. Props, guys and braces are used to provide extra support from the ground.

When cedar trees break, their repair often involves wiring them back together and heavier pruning or trimming. If you have tall or multi-stem cedars, preventative wiring is a good choice to ensure they don’t become separated or damaged by snow/ice. 

Mulching: An Effective Moisture Retention Strategy for Cold Winters

When temperatures plummet and winter asserts its grip on the landscape, a cedar’s ability to retain moisture is put under significant strain. The solution? Mulching around the base of your tree.

This not only helps conserve soil moisture but also provides protection against freezing temperatures – two critical factors for maintaining tree health during harsh winters.

Give your cedar trees a nice blanket of organic mulch, stretching it all the way to the drip line. This not only keeps the soil cozy but also evens out temperature swings and holds in moisture. Just make sure you don’t heap it against the trunk – we don’t want rot or pests.

Adequate Water

In the run up to winter, ensure your cedars are getting adequate water – not too little, or too much. It can be very challenging to assess this, but a few factors are important: 

  • Hedges and Shrubs Aren’t like smaller plants: Woody plants like cedars and yews don’t like their roots staying wet. In the heat of summer you may be familiar with the amount of water your flowers or vegetables need – these plants like to have consistent access to water. Trees and woody shrubs prefer to have a deeper “drink” a couple of times a week. In between, having wet, water-logged soil doesn’t help – it can rot roots out and kill trees. 
  • Root rot damage looks a lot like drought damage: When roots rot, the leaves don’t get the water and nutrients they need. When soil is too dry, the same thing happens. Always check the wetness of the soil a few inches below ground level. Quick watering or short, heavy rain will wet the top layer but run off too quickly to be absorbed. Check the soil below grade to see how wet or dry it is before adjusting your watering.

Key Takeaway: 

Brace your cedars for Toronto’s chilly winters with a three-pronged approach: Prune thoughtfully, removing only dead or diseased branches to boost overall health. Wrap young trees in burlap and spray foliage with an anti-desiccant to shield against harsh winds and frosty temperatures. Lastly, mulch generously but mindfully around the base

FAQs about How to Winterize Cedars

What is the best way to protect cedar in winter?

Protecting cedars in winter involves proper pruning, wrapping or insulating them, and providing adequate water before freezing temperatures set in. Mulch and wiring or other supports can also prevent damage.

Can cedar trees survive winter?

Yes, with appropriate care such as regular watering until freeze-up, mulching for root protection and properly timed pruning, cedars can endure harsh winters year after year.

How cold can cedar trees tolerate?

Cedar trees are hardy and can withstand temperatures well below freezing. However, extended periods of extreme cold may stress the tree.

What time of year is best to trim cedar trees?

Cedars can be pruned at a variety of different times of the year depending on the goal. To prepare your cedars for winter, pruning or trimming live branches should happen in fall or early winter after the trees are dormant. Dead branches can be removed at any time, and wiring or mulching as well.

Can I use anti-dessicant spray to protect my cedar?

Anti-dessicant spray on cedars is a waxy coating that is supposed to prevent the natural release of water from the cedars through transpiration. Recent studies have found no significant benefit in comparison to the use of burlap, and only very minimal benefit compared to doing nothing at all. It cannot prevent other types of winter damage, like trunk damage, root damage or snow/ice damage. Burlap and mulching together are more effective.

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Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
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