Heeling- In Trees

Any recommendations on how to “Heel-In” trees for the winter months?


If you don’t have a greenhouse or cold frame. Trees on the ground with wood chips or mulch piled up around the pot.
Some recommend even covered up to the first branch. I would imagine this would be necessary if you live in a colder zone.
If it snows, let it be, snow will insulate the trees. :evergreen_tree::grinning::metal:t2:


Very good question. I’m wondering this myself. I think I may put them in my garage to keep them out of the wind, but the wood chips sounds like a good idea as well.


I THINK the question is “physically, what does it look like to ‘heel in’ a tree,” yeah?

I’d be interested in that answer too.

This isn’t the greatest photo since most of the “heeling in” material is covered by the snow.

This is my nursery stock healing in bed. On the outside are pines and alpine trees (where possible) and then some more coastal and low elevation trees on the inside, one exception being a tall Japanese Maple in the back, it was too tall to be protected by anything anyway. I probably could have taken the Maple into the garage, but it was a $25 OSH going out-of-business piece.

This configuration shifted around a bit since I kept buying nursery stock over the winter (seems like a great time to pick up all those broken and beaten pieces the nurseries want to get rid of before the new stuff comes in).

Everything was sitting on about an inch of gravel to keep the grubs away. The gaps between the containers was stuffed with leaves from the large maple in my front yard. Nothing fancy. I went no higher than the rim of the pots.

I’m in Portland, Oregon, so this was likely unnecessary as this winter was very mild and these were all in large containers. I also think this was the majority of the snow for the year in this one shot.


This is a collected Pine, wood chips piled up 4 inches over the root ball, metal pipe is for stability.
This is what Randy Knight does with his collected trees.
Your potted material would look the same, minus the pipe. :metal:t2::grinning::evergreen_tree:

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So, “heeling in” actually means “covering the rootball with a bed of wood chips” – you aren’t e.g. digging up the soil and planting the rootball at all. Yes?

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Correct :+1:t2:
Have you watched the Randy Knight Stream, full of valuable info. :metal:t2:

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I have heard of people digging into the ground to put their trees below the soil line for extra protection. But I’m not sure how necessary that is for most of the country.


So my winter storage is surrounded by landscape blocks and filled with decomposed granite chicken grit and peat moss. The pots are covered with the stone substrate and protected from above with shelves that the trees rest on during the growing season. The cedar fencing is on three sides of the enclosure to minimize desiccation. As soon as we get snow I gently pile it up around the trees and around the landscape blocks. The snow is the best insulation against dramatic drops in temperature.
If the snow melts during the winter it waters the trees. I have used this storage for 20 years. If a tree cannot survive in this environment I chose not to work with it. I have not been able to keep any Japanese maple alive to this date.


For my big trees I wrap the pots with landscape fabric, then dig them into my garden fram and put up a mesh fence to keep out the rabbits and other critters. My small trees go into my unheated garage on my bi-level table.

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With the fence & the bi-level bench in garage

Do you have any trouble with wind or desiccation? I group the trees close together to protect from wind. Nice structure for protection from critters!!