Tree Care in the winter months

winter forest, trees in winter, trees in winter from above

Do your trees need care in the winter?

Even though trees are dormant throughout the winter, they are susceptible to cold and dry weather. Even if they don’t show it, trees are stressed by hard winter weather, and it’s generally the shortage of water that does the greatest harm. Dry roots heading into the winter might spell disaster for trees in the spring. Here are some tree care tips you can follow so they can thrive and are still healthy during the winter. 

man cutting down tree, tree removal

Your trees still need you, even if it’s gloomy and winter outside. Long periods of time without extra water might harm your trees’ root systems and cause them to die. Trees that have been weakened throughout the winter will normally die back later in the summer, even if they seem normal in the spring. Neglecting your trees’ health throughout the long winter months is a certain way to suffocate their prospects of healthy development for the rest of the year, thus considering tree removal

Tree care treatments may be conducted throughout the winter months that will help the trees in the next growing season, despite the difficulty of maintaining trees during the winter months. In the winter, proper tree care keeps your trees healthy, protects them from the weather, and provides them the best chance for success in the spring summer warmer months.

Follow these tree maintenance tips to ensure that the trees on your property are well-cared for throughout the year.

In This Article

man trimming a tree in winter, tree pruning

Types of tree care in winter

Pruning

Pruning trees in the winter is the best time since they are in a state of rest. Establishing healthy structure and preventing future harm, such as limb failure, by pruning trees while they are still young.

Pruning young trees is an easy five-step process:

  1. Remove branches that are dead, dying, damaged, or infected.
  2. Establish a central figurehead.
  3. Based on the tree’s location and function, choose the lowest permanent branch (LPB).
  4. Select and establish the branches of the scaffolding.
  5. Temporary LPB branches may be selected below the LPB to delete or return to the LPB.

This reduces danger in two unique ways. First and foremost, it eliminates any dead or dying branches that might endanger the public’s safety in the event of a storm or heavy winds. Another benefit of winter pruning is that insects carrying disease, bacteria, or fungus are less likely to be attracted, which means your trees and plants are less likely to suffer as a result. You and your trees will both be safer as a result of doing some winter trimming.

Professional arborists should be hired if you are unsure about pruning or lack the right instruments. This is particularly true if you have an older tree.

Protect the vulnerable

Prepare your young saplings, vulnerable trees, and potted plants for the impending cold. Freezing temperatures may harm your tree’s branches, leaves, and core, limiting its capacity to develop and resist illness. Protect them by bringing them inside if possible, or covering them with sheets/tarps that will retain the heat throughout the night.

Watering

Continue to water trees on a regular basis during the autumn and until the ground freezes. After the ground freezes, keep an eye on the weather for the rest of the winter.

Dormant trees do not need as much watering as they do during the growing season. Plan on watering your trees one to two times per month until they begin to leaf out in the spring when there is little to no snow cover and minimal precipitation. Your trees may need additional water if the location is especially windy. You may continue your usual watering routine after the ground thaws in the spring.

Water your trees as long as the weather is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no snow or ice on the ground. Early in the day, before the temperature lowers at night, water the plants so they have time to absorb the water before it evaporates.

Apply water carefully all the way out to the tree’s root spread’s edge. The root spread of most established trees is equal to their height. If feasible, use a soaker hose to water thoroughly and avoid splashing on leaves while watering an evergreen tree.

Mulching

When it comes to tree health, mulch is a must. Organic mulch, applied in the autumn, prevents soil from drying up and helps maintain a more consistent inside temperature throughout the winter.

Cracks in the soil may dry out a tree’s roots if the planting location is exposed to freezing and thawing. This sort of damage may be prevented by using mulch.

Rodents

Trees may become a target for rodents looking for food throughout the winter. Apart from deer in more rural regions, mice and rabbits, both of which nibble bark and may girdle trees, are the two main causes. Squirrels may also be a nuisance. 

To keep rodents at bay, leave a gap between the mulch and the tree’s trunk and inspect it periodically. If mice are becoming a problem, you may want to consider putting out bait. Carefully follow the instructions on the packaging. Wire mesh cages help keep rabbits away. There are also commercially available paint-on repellents. For further information, contact your local tree service.

Protecting Evergreens

In the winter, broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons are especially vulnerable to drying out. Leaves and needles lose water via a process called transpiration, which occurs even in freezing conditions. During times of high winds and moderate bright weather, most water is lost. The earth freezes under very low temperatures, cutting off the water supply to the plant’s roots. The leaves begin to desiccate and become brown as water is transpired quicker than it is taken up.

Windbreaks constructed of burlap or canvas fastened to frames surrounding the plants may help to prevent desiccation. These obstacles should be positioned on the prevailing wind’s side. Some plants, such as arborvitae, have growth tendencies that allow for total burlap wrapping. Never use black plastic to wrap plants since it creates significant temperature variations. Burlap wraps and windbreaks aren’t always enough to keep winter injuries at bay, but they can help. Burlap-wrapped plants, at the very least, are less likely to be grazed by deer.

Damage caused by salt and deicer

Trees of any age may be killed by salt and deicing solutions, no matter how old they are. Roots soak up salt runoff, and passing automobiles may sprinkle salt onto foliage and bark, causing damage. Make sure that you avoid planting trees in locations that get salt treatments throughout the winter, such as parkways and roadside areas. Any salt or deicing solution that has made contact with the tree’s leaves is irreversible. Some deicers have grown more ecologically benign, but the bulk of them are still toxic to plants.

Make Snow Houses

A snow house is a prefabricated cover that is put over bushes and unfolds like a tent. It offers comparable protection as wraps on cold months but is more convenient to put up. If your snow home is constructed of plastic, make sure it is perforated to enable air to circulate and prevent moisture from accumulating on the foliage. When daytime temperatures rise, moisture that can’t evaporate encourages fungal development and may freeze on leaves if temps drop extremely low.

trees in winter, tree branches

Conclusion

Trees provide oxygen, improve air quality, reduce climate change, and provide homes for wildlife. Leaves absorb and screen the sun’s rays, reducing the impacts of heat, rain, and wind. It is because of this that you must take care of your trees, no matter the season.

Having your landscape inspected by a qualified specialist ensures that your plants are safe. The most cost-effective strategy to maintain healthy trees and shrubs is to apply a winter treatment. If you know what you’re doing, taking care of your trees in the autumn and winter isn’t that difficult. 

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