How To Prepare Fruit Trees For Winter

As the weather gets colder it’s time to consider how to prepare fruit trees for winter in order to protect them from winter frost damage. 

Your fruit tree’s roots are the most vulnerable part of the tree in the cold weather. Tree roots are essential for all the tree’s key functions.

  • In the summer, they bring water and nutrients in from the soil and draw those nutrients up into the tree.
  • In the fall, all the collected nutrients and energy produced by the leaves are then drawn back into the tree’s roots for winter consumption and storage in the roots. Those nutrients will help keep the dormant fruit tree alive until spring.
  • But what happens if your fruit tree’s roots freeze over the winter? If the roots freeze they will die and your tree will not have have access to stored nutrients – so it may not survive the winter.

To Mulch Or Not To Mulch?

So how do you prepare fruit trees for winter? One important way to do this is by protecting their roots by mulching. But mulching is only beneficial if you use the right product to mulch with. Using the wrong mulch can be dangerous for your tree.


Do Not Mulch With Compost

Using compost or well rotted manure to mulch your fruit trees with in the fall is a bad idea. That’s because nutrient rich compost or manure would give your trees a burst of energy just at the time when they are getting ready to go dormant for the winter. Your tree may grow tender young shoots that will die in the first winter frost and it will not have time to draw it’s nutrients from its leaves down into the roots, making winter survival difficult.


Do Mulch With Slowly-Decomposing Materials

So what mulch should you choose to prepare fruit trees for winter? Use a mulch that breaks down slowly. You might choose straw, or hardwood mulch. Some people even mulch with gravel. These products will successfully insulate the roots of your tree until your tree emerges from dormancy in the spring.

So do you have an cherry, apple, pear tree or any other fruit tree that you want to protect for winter? Learn SEVEN MORE WAYS to prepare your fruit tree for winter in my free eBook “Seven Ways to Prepare Your Fruit Trees For Winter”.

Get your free copy by signing up for my monthly fruit tree care newsletter. Do do so, just click on the red button below and enjoy! 

 Happy winter everyone!

Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner

Director, Fruit Tree Care Education Online

Susan Poizner is the author of the award-winning fruit tree care book Growing Urban Orchards and the creator of the award-winning online fruit tree care training portal at She is an urban orchardist, journalist and film maker living in Toronto, Canada.