Prepare Maple Trees for Winter

Get ready for next spring by preparing your maple trees for winter.  If you're one of the many people who have maple trees in their front yard, and you want to avoid potential tree problems come spring, preparing them now can save you headaches down the road. Unless you live in the country or on a windy hilltop, the main project you'll face is cleaning up your lawn and getting rid of the dead leaves.


Fall maple tree sugarbush. Photo by GerberInk
Fall maple tree sugarbush. Photo by GerberInk

Why Prepare Maple Trees for Winter?

Why clean up your lawn? The most important reason is that several prolific tree problems originate in dead leaves. Dead leaves harbor several different types of fungi that can winter over underneath the snow. This moist environment is perfect for the fungi to multiply in the spring, spreading to your tree's leaves and drive a homeowner to distraction. The most common of these are tar spot and anthracnose. The most dangerous fungi infection for maple trees is verticillium wilt.

The best thing you can do for your maple trees is to make sure that the dead leaves are removed and bagged for disposal. This may be difficult if you live in town and your neighbor isn't tidy as well. However, the frequency isn't as important as doing a final leaf removal from around the tree before the snow hits. Personally, my family does a big leaf clean up late in October before the snow starts to fly. Otherwise, we'd be cleaning up leaves every day from the sheer mass of trees that lose their leaves late in the year.

You may dispose of your leaves either by burning them (depends upon your locality- it is against the law in some areas), or by bagging them for disposal. If you compost infected leaves, you run the risk of infecting other trees next spring.

Important Note:  Blowing your leaves into another person's yard won't keep your trees from becoming infected by certain fungi that thrive on maple trees the following year. Many fungi are airborne, which means that if the fungi winters over in your neighbor's yard, it will find its way onto your trees next spring.

If Your Maple Trees Become Infected

If your trees do become infected despite your care, don't despair. Most trees can survive tar spot or anthracnose. Maple trees can be sprayed with a fungicide (check with a local nursery or arborist for what is approved for use in your area). However, the application may be expensive if you have large, or multiple maple trees.

Trees that are stressed due to a fungal problem should be given a tree fertilizer (use with care on young trees) once the fungal infection is noted, and watered regularly during a drought.

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