June 13, 2013
Q. How do I burlap my Japanese maple? Do I just gather up all the branches and squish them together to form a tall thin wrap, or do I wrap them loosely in the shape they are in so it will look like a giant fat burlap ball?

A. Protecting your Japanese maple from harsh winter conditions is certainly a good idea as they are a bit temperamental in Canada.  However, I don't suggest actually 'wrapping' the tree. We want to avoid damaging the branches by tying them, especially as they become brittle in the cold winter months. We also don't want to create a cozy pocket for animals to take up winter residence. Instead, you want to create a burlap 'room' around the tree. Drive some appropriately tall stakes into the ground surrounding the perimeter of your tree, then attach the burlap to the stakes. Old hockey sticks work just fine. Make sure the burlap goes right to the ground and stretches as tall as possible, thus creating a room for your tree. It is unnecessary to put a roof on your room. You should also make sure the tree is well watered up until frost and mulched to protect the roots. Remember, never apply mulch right up to the trunk of the tree. Always leave two or three inches of space between the trunk and the mulch. Mulching right up to the trunk is unhealthy as it encourages disease, insects and even those furry rodents to snuggle up to the trunk for free winter snacks of bark. 
Note: Not all gardeners believe in winter protection for trees. They feel if the right tree has been planted in the right spot, nature should be allowed to do the rest. It's a personal choice, however, if the trees are newly planted, it's probably wise to nurture them through their first couple of winters. After that, you may decide it's too much work and since they have become well established, it's time to let them fend for themselves. 
Yours in gardening,
Toronto Master Gardener