Early watering of trees and shrubs can be crucial to things you planted last year, or the year before, especially if the season was dry. If your plants have been out of snow cover for a while, and especially if they are on the south side of your house or a fence, they could need some water now. One of the main causes of winter kill is not extreme temperatures, but going into the winter with the soil around the plant dry, or not wet enough to protect its young roots through the duration of the winter. Plants must still take up moisture through the roots through the winter to maintain life. To compound the problem, water transfer between the roots and the tips is very slow in the winter. The winter sun warms the south side of the plant, causing the plant to use it’s supply of moisture on that side. The plant can soon use up the moisture stored in the stems of the plant if it didn’t go into the winter nice and wet. If the roots don’t have adequate moisture either, the plant is in trouble. When you see winter burn on the south side of evergreens, it may be because the stems and roots on that side of the plant dried out through the winter, and that side of the plant is damaged, or even dies. If you have watered the plant into the fall, and then mulched around it when the ground was frozen, much less damage will be done by drying winter winds and strong winter sun, especially when the sun is reflected off snow. Wrapping the trunk of trees in burlap, or painting the trunk of a fruit tree white, can minimize the effect of the sun on the plant. On the south side of a fence or big rock, the effects of the winter sun are multiplied by the reflection of light and heat, and newly planted shrubs and trees can be very vulnerable, especially fruit trees and roses. Make sure that they are watered until the ground is frozen, and then mulch around them. Pull the mulch back early in the spring so the ground can warm and allow new growth to occur. If there is an open winter, check the soil all winter to make sure the roots have a constant supply of moisture. Early in the spring, check your plants for dryness and begin your watering routine as soon as necessary.