NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Once the leaves on trees start changing color and falling, it’s time to start preparing your trees for the cold weather.

Chances are, you’ve seen leaves and pine needles on the ground already.

This means it’s time to get your trees ready for the winter.

“If you have a younger tree or a tree that you’ve just recently planted, what you’re gonna want to do is make sure that you are watering that tree until the ground freezes,” said Emily How, the horticulture agent at the Ward County NDSU Extension Center.

How says you should also water older trees until it gets too cold.

She says the current soil temperatures have been in the 50s, but once the soil temperatures reach 32 degrees Farenheight, you should stop watering trees.

“The water isn’t going to penetrate the soil. It’s just going to get icy on top which is another hazard,” said How.

Another thing you should do to help protect your trees is wrapping them.

This can help protect them from many different things.

“So you want to do a white plastic barrier, or you can do craft paper. This prevents sun scald and your tree from cracking. And it also helps prevent critters from grabbing a snack out of your tree,” said How.

She says it’s important to protect your trees from natural elements because the cold wind and temperatures could injure trees, or even kill them.

Another thing to note is that every tree is different.

The number of leaves and needles that fall off will vary for each individual tree species.

“This is normal. It’s not something that people should be concerned about. Trees drop needles at different rates so just be aware that one tree could be dropping its leaves and another tree is perfectly fine. It’s just the tree going dormant for the season,” said How.

She says once your tree begins to mature and the bark turns from smooth to textured, protection is the key to keeping it alive.

How says the best time to start these practices is now.

Trees naturally protect themselves, but we can help the younger and older trees stay healthy ourselves.

For most trees in winter, tree bark provides insulation for the interior of the tree while also dispersing heat.

When trees go dormant for the winter, it’s because they’ve sensed a shift in levels of daylight.

It’s at this point that they begin making changes at the cellular level to become more tolerant of cold temperatures.