Potted fruit trees left outside in cold climates need to be insulated to protect their roots from freezing winter temperatures. The first step is to surround the pot with chickenwire. Next you'll fill that frame with straw.

Potted fruit trees left outside in cold climates need to be insulated to protect their roots from freezing winter temperatures. The first step is to surround the pot with chickenwire. Next you’ll fill that frame with straw.

How to prepare your potted fruit tree for winter

Dwarf fruit trees, planted in pots, are becoming more popular in landscapes here in Toronto but the problem is that these potted fruit trees need more attention, especially when it comes to preparing them for the winter freeze.

You see, like all other trees, the roots of potted trees are essential for the tree’s survival. They need lots of room to grow and spread out (therefore be sure to put them in a very large pot). But they also need additional insulation in the winter.

For instance, an apple tree that’s planted in the ground in your garden, has lots of soil around its roots protecting it from winter cold. A potted apple tree? Not so much. The roots are more vulnerable unless you’ve planted your tree in an insulated pot.

Three steps to insulating your fruit tree’s roots

So, what is the solution? During a recent class in preparing your fruit trees for winter at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, I taught my students how to insulate their potted trees in three easy steps. Here is what we needed.

  • A roll of chickenwire that’s about as high as the pot your fruit tree is planted in.
  • Wire cutters
  • A bit of extra wire to seal the wire circle
  • A bale of straw (not hay….as hay has seeds and can introduce weeds into your garden)

And here are the steps for potted fruit tree protection:

  1. Roll out the chicken wire in a circle around your pot, leaving about six inches of space between the chicken wire circle and the pot itself as illustrated in the photograph above.
  2. Cut the chicken wire to size (you’ll have extra to protect other trees in your garden or to use for other purposes) and secure the chicken wire circle with bits of extra wire used like twist ties.
  3. Stuff the space between the pot and the chicken wire with straw and put some straw at the top of the pot, insulating the soil from the top as well. You can see this in the photograph below.
Susan Poizner (kneiling on the left) with the volunteers from Evergreen Brickworks posing with their newly insulated potted tree.

Susan Poizner (kneeling on the left) with the volunteers and staff from Evergreen Brickworks posing with their newly insulated potted dwarf apple tree.

In the spring, when the weather starts to get warmer, you will remove the straw and the chicken wire. Spread the straw out in your vegetable garden or around fruiting trees and shrubs that are planted in the ground. It will now act as nutritious mulch that will help retain moisture in your soil and slowly decompose, releasing valuable nutrients into the soil. Save the chickenwire so that you can use it to insulate your potted tree next year.

At Evergreen Brickworks, this was a fun way to prepare a potted tree for winter and it didn’t take long to do at all. Are you looking for other tips and ways to protect your fruit tree for winter? Check out my previous post on preparing fruit trees for winter. And if you want to learn more, fill out the form below to sign up for OrchardPeople.com’s email list and you can download a free copy of my mini eBook “Six Ways to Prepare Your Fruit Tree For Winter”.

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