Many fruit tree farmers depend on good crop yields every year to financially carry them through the remainder of the year. If that farmer is you, and you live in a location that frequently sees long stretches of below-freezing temperatures during the fall, winter, and spring, you need to know how to keep your trees safe and healthy so that they will produce favorable yields for you in the following seasons.
Of first importance, take note of whether small animals and varmints such as rabbits tend to frequent your fields and orchards. Search for evidence that the grass is eaten around your tree and look for rabbit pellets nearby. If you stumble upon a rabbit burrow in the ground, get ready to put up fencing or a similar type of barrier around the lower three feet or so of the tree trunk as the weather starts turning colder in late autumn. The fence will keep the rabbits or other local wildlife from eating the bark off the bottom of the trunk when the grass is dry, dead, and brittle. Deer may also attempt to strip the bark off trees for food during the winter, so if your area is prone to wildlife like deer or rabbits, take putting up barriers around the trunks of your trees seriously.
Next, begin gathering an insulation of choice – the natural kinds – to protect the roots of your trees. Get a bag or two of mulch at a time starting in late summer and early fall to help offset your costs and keep you from having a massive bill all at once. When hay harvesters begin making bales in late summer and early autumn, buy several bales for insulation. Straw and pine straw also work as highly efficient protective insulators. Depending on where you live, pine straw could be obtained at dirt cheap prices or even for free, since many landowners with pine trees in their yards just want the stuff gone, and would gladly give you leave to collect it and haul it away!
Place whichever insulation you choose around the base of your fruit trees. The mulch, pine straw, straw, or hay serves as a blanket cover over the tree roots and helps prevent freezing and cracking of the base and roots of your trees, which would lead to irreparable damage and profit loss the following year. In a pinch, you can use snow as a temporary insulator if you have not had an opportunity to collect your mulch, pine straw, hay, or straw, and you receive a snowfall just as the temperatures begin to drop to dangerous levels. Be sure to replace the snow with a more efficient insulator as soon as you possibly can.
Finally, thoroughly water your potted, smaller trees just before freezing temperatures arrive in your area. The water will freeze around the roots, preserving them for the long winter ahead. If you are too late to the punch in getting this step done, your trees may not survive.