Wrapping Our Young Triumph Elm To Protect Against Winter Sunscald - November 2022

The guys who planted our new Triumph Elm tree in our front yard told me three things when they were leaving it:  1.  Put the tree away wet.  2.  Wrap the trunk this winter to protect against sun scald and cracking.  3.  Don't touch the tree for years.   

Of that advice, I *sort of* understood the first and third one.  Watering in a new tree for a couple of weeks is very important.  But, having the tree installed so late in the season meant that I could 'put it away wet'.  As for #3 - pruning - I've learned my lesson and don't touch trees for a number of years.  But, #2...wrapping the tree.  That was new to me.

Sunscald is a fairly common physiological problem found most commonly on young, thin-barked ornamental and fruit trees.

Research suggests that during the winter, frozen tissue on the south or southwest side of the trunk which is also being heated by the sun, thaws and then rapidly refreezes. 

They also go on to talking about how to help your young tree and protect it from Winter sunscald:

The most common management strategy is to cover the lower trunk with light colored materials. A number of options are commercially available including rigid corrugated plastic tree guards, kraft paper tree warp, and breathable white fabric tree wrap.
They go on to call out NOT using anything dark-colored to wrap your trees as this will only 'intensify the temperature problem'.  

I went online to try to figure out what to wrap my tree with and found a couple of options including a wrap from DeWitt and another one from Tanglefoot that seemed to fit the bill.  The Tanglefoot one was available at our local Menards (and I wanted to do this project right away), so I went ahead and picked up a roll for six bucks.  

(A housekeeping note on garden tasks: While this project (wrapping trees) wasn't anywhere mentioned on my 2022 to-do list, I *do* think it qualifies as a 'seasonal project' under the terms laid out in #10 of this year's list.)

Below is a photo of the product label - they call it 'banding material'.  The roll is 3" wide by 50' long.  

 And, here below, is a look at this tree wrap from the top-down.  It is somewhat corrugated and feels like a stretchy, thin, pliable cardboard.  It is also tan-colored, so it checks the box on 'light color' material.

On a recent afternoon, I went out and started to work on the Elm.  First, I removed the Tree Gator watering bag that I had been using since the tree was planted.  I borrowed this from my neighbor (he recommended it) and it worked perfectly.  Made watering the tree in a slow, deliberate way VERY easy.  Once I took that watering bag off, I started at the root flare and began to wrap the tree trunk from the bottom up.  I used some beige masking tape to secure it a couple of feet up from the root flare.  See below, for what the Triumph Elm (3.5" caliper) looks like with a bit of tree wrap (for sunscald and winter cracking protection) looks like:


As you can see, I only went up the trunk a couple of feet.  I didn't measure, but it seems like I went up between two and three feet.  Once I finished up, I went online and confirmed my suspicion:  I should have taken the wrap all the way up to the first set of branches.  Some folks say 4' tall.  Others say to the first branch.  

I have a few other trees that I'd like to protect - including the Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree - that have suffered from rabbit damage and the Frans Fontaine Hornbeams that have some cracks near their root flare. Once I get those done, I'll come back to this tree and see if I have enough material to wrap the tree trunk a bit higher - maybe up to the first set of branches.

With this being my first year wrapping my young trees, I'm also learning something about how to best use the wrap and that includes *when* to remove it.  According to the folks at Davey, they said it is best to remove the wrap right before Spring occurs.  They say; "Generally, the rule of thumb is to keep tree wrap on from November to April."

Note to Spring 2023 Jake:  Remember to remove the tree wrap from the trees once the final frost has occurred.  

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