• Begin looking for animal damage when the usual food sources for deer, rodents, and rabbits become scarce. Check to see if the tender tree bark has been eaten by some critter for breakfast. Pull the mulch back from stems about an inch to lessen rodent damage. Use chicken wire and fencing to protect plants and prevent further injury.
• Protect young, thin barked trees such as oak, maple, and linden from sunscald by wrapping their trunks with commercial tree wrap. Remove it in the Spring.
• Check perennials for heaving. Abrupt temperature changes can cause shallow rooted plants to push out of the ground, exposing their roots. Cover these areas with three to four Inches of mulch such as wood chips, dried leaves, or evergreen boughs.
• Avoid using deicing salts around plants close to sidewalks, driveways or parking areas. Carefully remove any salt which has collected near woody plants.
• Brush heavy accumulations of snow off branches to prevent breakage or distortion of plants. Check for heavy snow accumulations where snow slides off of roofs or where drifts form. Uncover plants weighted down with snow. Gently brush snow off branches. Do not try to remove ice. Let ice melt naturally.
• Prune dead, diseased, crossing or rubbing branches in winter. When the leaves are off, it is easy to see the structure of a tree and make adjustments.
• Protect multi-stem evergreens such as arborvitae, juniper and yews from winter storm damage by tying their trunks together with nylons or cotton twine. Remove it in Spring. If the temperature is above freezing, you can re-apply an anti-transpirant plant protector, such as “Wilt Proof,” to evergreens, azaleas, hollies, boxwood, rhododendrons, laurel, and other ornamentals to prevent winter burn and water loss.
• Clean, sharpen and repair garden equipment. Get a jump on Spring. Prepare for Spring planting. Evaluate last year’s garden and decide about changes. Browse the seed and plant catalogues. Draw garden plans on paper. Include a wish list of plants to add. Do not remove mulch, screening and other winter protections until you see sure signs of spring growth.
• Continue to feed the birds. Many plants offer winter berries, seeds, and pods for birds and wild life. Consider adding some of these to your yard.
Don't forget to visit The Tree Body Reference File at the Palos Park Library