Protecting Young Trees
At planting, trees with thin bark such as maple, mountain ash, and honey locust, or trees dug from shaded areas may be damaged by sudden exposure to the sun. Therefore, small, leafy branches growing along the lower part of the trunk should be left on for at least the first two years to protect the trunk from the rigors of the warm winter sun. Trees that do not have low dense branches will benefit from wrapping to prevent sunscald, the cracking of bark due to warm days and cold nights, and moisture loss.
Using a commercial tree wrap, start wrapping at ground level, overlapping halfway on each turn to produce a shingle effect that will help shed water. Wrap up to the first major branch and secure the wrap with plastic tape. The wrap should stay in place all winter, but it must be removed during the growing season so that the tree can get light and air.
To prevent animal damage to tender young bark, a small mesh screen may be set around the tree, from several inches below the soil surface (to protect from rodents) to 2 feet above the usual snow line (to protect from rabbits). But as the tree grows, the mesh screen should be removed so that it does not girdle the tree.
Aside from winter sun, wind, and animal injury, the most frequent source of damage to young trees is human in origin. Lawnmowers and weed-whackers probably cause more damage to landscape plants than any other single source. Protect your trees by mulching around them so that no landscape equipment comes in contact with them. For more information about protecting young trees, call the Extension Office.