Wrapping Alberta spruce for winter

(Question)

I have an Alberta spruce (I think it is); almost 30 years old; 5 ft. tall in southern Ontario. It faces south/east. I added compost this summer. Dry conditions. Also gets affected by winter snow and ice. I have no burlap. Can I wrap it in an old white bed sheet that is about 50% Cotton, 50% polyester for winter? What else can I do to improve this tree? Thank you.

(Answer)

Thank you for inquiry regarding your Alberta spruce.

Evergreens such as your spruce continue to transpire or release moisture from their needles/leaves during the winter, even in their dormant state. They are unable to replace this lost moisture as they can’t take up water through their root systems due to the water in the soil being frozen. The needles may become brown and desiccated, particularly in harsh winter winds or on mild sunny days.

It is important to water the trees well until freezeup in order for each tree to begin the winter season well fortified with moisture.  We also recommend you mulch your junipers from about 6-8 cm away from the trunk out to the perimeter of the branches, with about 5 cm of compost, composted pine bark, cedar mulch or a similar organic product to help prevent a freeze/thaw cycle and to maintain moisture in the ground.

To protect the tree over winter, you could construct a barrier around the spruce using the bed sheet you mention. The top should be left open to allow for some air and light penetration.

Watering your trees as early in the spring as possible is important as this will help them replace the moisture lost over the course of the winter.  Winter burn inevitably appears in March or April when there is a lack of soil moisture and the trees have been under stress.

Regular watering throughout the growing season is also recommended given the dry conditions you mention.

You might find the following links of interest:

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/evergreens-junipers

https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/protecting-trees-and-shrubs-winter#how-to-reduce-evergreen-winter-injury-1264311