The thin, soft bark on the trunks of young deciduous trees, particularly maples and fruit trees, is susceptible to sunscald. Sunscald occurs when the sun warms the tree trunk in winter, activating dormant cells as would typically occur close to spring when the tree comes out of dormancy. The active cells ultimately are destroyed when evening winter temperatures drop; this can lead to dead branches at the top of the tree. Wrapping the trunk the tree in the fall is an effective way to protect from sunscald.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Hand spade
- Tree wrap tape
- Duct tape
Pull the mulch and soil away from the trunk of the tree. Use a hand spade or your fingers to remove soil to expose 2 to 3 inches of the trunk below ground. Use the width of the tree tape as a guide. Tree tape is paper product coated with tar or another water-repelling substance. The tape, which is typically 2 to 3 inches wide and up to 50 feet long, is sold in rolls. The tape will help to insulate the trunk of the tree and reflect sunlight.
Cut two pieces of duct tape about 1 1/2 times the diameter of the tree trunk. The duct tape will be used to secure the tree wrap at the bottom and top of the tree.
Wrap the tree tape twice around the lowest portion of the tree, keeping the tape snug. Make the third wrap on a slight upward diagonal and about one-half the width of the tape higher on the trunk. Overlapping the tape prevents water penetration. Continue wrapping the tape diagonally upward around the tree and in an overlapping fashion until it is about 6 inches above ground level.
Wrap the duct tape around the base of the tree, covering the tree tape to hold it in place. Push the soil back around the base of the tree.
Continue wrapping the tree tape upward on a slight diagonal, overlapping the tape about one-half the width of the tape, and keeping the tape snug. Wrap the tape past the first or second branch. To finish, wrap the tape horizontally around the tree trunk two or three times and then cut the tape. Secure the tape at the top with a strip of duct tape.
Remove the tape in the spring to allow sun and air to reach the trunk. Wrap the trunk again in the fall and remove the tape the following spring. Repeat for the first three winters after planting.
Tips and warnings
- Another method to prevent sunscald is to paint the trunk of the tree with white latex paint. The white paint reflects sunlight and does not restrict tree growth.
- Tree wrap tape is available at garden centres.
- Sunscald can crack the bark of the tree trunk, leaving the tree susceptible to insect and moisture penetration that could subsequently kill it.
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