Help my tree make it through the winter
September 1, 2009 1:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I help a tree that I'm growing in a container make it through the winter?

I have a maple tree that I've raised from a seedling to a foot in height in a big plastic container (think cat litter bucket). I want it to make it through the unforgiving Wisconsin winter without killing it. With other plants, it looks like I could either insulate the container and leave it outside, or maybe put it in my garage.

If I were to move it to the garage, when should I do it? (After the leaves drop?)

If I were to leave it outside, how should I insulate the container?
posted by drezdn to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was in Japan some years ago, I saw gardeners wrapping trees in thick straw blankets.

And I understand it is good to water before the hard frost comes because the frozen water acts as an insulator below ground.
posted by Quillcards at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2009

What kind of Maple? That might inform any advice. I think most maples are pretty hardy, I mean Vermont isn't exactly the tropics. I think the sugar maple is the Wisconsin state tree, no? but I imagine some maples are less hardy.

Advice from a gardener who has his own fig tree in his backyard (Brooklyn, NY) is that the most important thing is that if the roots are in a container, then the cold can kill the roots. You could dig a hole, put the container in a hole (wrapped with burlap) and cover the container with soil. I am assuming you don't want to permanently plant the tree yet.

If you put it in the garage, then after the leaves fall or at least when most of the leaves have turned color. Put it back out a month at least before most trees leaf out in your area. Most deciduous trees need both warmth and increasing light to leaf out.
posted by xetere at 2:40 PM on September 1, 2009

We moved three small Japanese maples in pots a few years ago - in the winter, we did 3 different things - we put one inside a tire and filled it to the rim with mulch. One, we dug a hole in the ground and put the pot in (not planted, and not a deep hole). The third we left alone. The first two did fine and we planted them, one a year later, and one two years later. They are both doing great. The one we just left in the pot died. This was hardly a scientific survey, but those were our results.
posted by clarkstonian at 3:25 PM on September 1, 2009

This may be a dumb question, but what do you plan to do with it, ultimately? Have you considered just planting it?
posted by electroboy at 6:33 PM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: I think it's either a sugar maple or a Norway maple.

I don't plan on planting it until at least next year because the only way it really works in my yard is as a container plant (I've got a plan for where to plant it eventually, I just want to have it around for a bit longer).
posted by drezdn at 6:53 PM on September 1, 2009

A few years ago I had a wisteria from a nursery growing in a pot ready to be transplanted. I waited too long and just stuck in in my (uninsulated) shed to be protected from our winter (southwestern Ontario, Canada). In the springtime I asked an English woman (professional gardener) what I should do with it. She told me that if it was protected from the snow and ice over the winter, that it probably would be fine to plant in the spring. That the soil around the roots would have froze through the winter, but it would have been the same if it was planted in the ground anyways. It was just a little more protected in my shed. Just try and not disturb any of the soil and roots. Carefully remove it from the pot and plant it. She was right. I planted it and its thriving years later. Actually it was pretty obvious.
posted by Taurid at 11:36 PM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: I dug a hole and stuck it in the ground. It survived the winter and my toddler breaking off the top two inches.
posted by drezdn at 10:14 AM on May 11, 2010

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