Keep Your Trees Safe and Healthy This Winter
If you live somewhere with harsh winters, you know how rough the season is on your trees. From dipping temperatures to snow and frost to pests, there are plenty of types of damage that trees can face during winter. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to limit the effects of this damage.
READ MORE: Common Signs of Illness in Trees
Where Winter Damage Comes From
Temperature Rises and Dips
You might think that freezing temperatures are the biggest perpetrator of damage during the winter. In reality, the rapid changes in temperature are far worse.
Trees need the decrease in temperature at the end of the year to be consistent — this helps them acclimate, or adjust, to the new climate. However, abrupt changes in either direction can disrupt this process and leave trees vulnerable.
Have you ever seen the temperature drop double digits within a single winter day? This phenomenon can seriously damage trees. Trees become dormant during the winter, meaning they stop all metabolic activity — think of it like they’re hibernating. Dormant trees aren’t “awake” to protect themselves during a massive temperature drop.
Meanwhile, a rapid increase in temperature can hurt trees too. This comes in the form of sunscald, a dry canker found on trees exposed to sun.
If your trees are already damaged in some way, freezing temperatures will only make it worse. Plus, these temperatures can freeze snow onto your branches, turning them into frost or ice, which bring their own problems.
Snow, Ice, and Frost
Snow and ice can latch onto your branches, knocking even the healthiest ones off your tree. Frost, meanwhile, can leave the outside of the wood contracting at a different pace from the interior. As a result, cracks known as “shakes” are created.
Expect to see bite marks in your trees when winter ends. Critters need a warm place to stay during the colder months, and the warmth of your tree is like a five-star hotel for these hungry pests.
As winter ends and the snow melts away, you’ll notice a ton of dead branches on the ground. A mix of heavy snow and tough wind knocks these branches down, and it’s important to remove them as soon as possible.
READ MORE: Do I Need Permission to Cut Down My Own Tree?
How to Protect Trees and Prevent Damage
Choose Trees That Are Right For Your Climate
The earliest step you can take to prevent winter damage begins before you plant a single tree in your yard. Certain types of trees fare better in different climates, and you may choose to plant trees that will have a higher chance of survival.
For more information, look at Canada’s Plant Hardiness Zone Maps
Learning how to mulch trees effectively is one of the best strategies for protecting a tree year-round, and winter is certainly no exception. Mulch can protect your trees’ roots from being shocked by frost and ice. Young trees benefit particularly from this process, as it helps their roots grow and remain healthy despite the weather conditions.
Watering is an important step to encourage healthy trees to grow, but you have to be careful during the winter. Melted snow and ice does not replace manual watering. We recommend watering trees early in the day, since the weather will not drop for a while, giving the soil time to absorb it all.
Wrap Trunk and Branches
Even if your trees are healthy, and even if you take perfect care of them, your branches still may be knocked off by wind or snow. As a precautionary measure, we recommend tying the branches together. Bundling branches together and placing a tree wrap around the trunk will keep your trees in one piece when spring rolls around, and the surfaces will be protected from frost and ice.
Be Careful When You Prune
You can’t just haphazardly cut off a tree’s branches. Maintaining the correct tree shape is important for the tree’s health and balance. The branches you choose to cut aren’t the only important choice you make — it matters when you prune. Trees prepare to go dormant when winter approaches. By pruning in the fall, you’ll trick the tree into thinking that it’s time to grow rather than go dormant. This will leave the tree unprepared for winter. Instead, avoid pruning until spring arrives.
Remove Dead Trees ASAP
Dead trees need to be removed quickly. We know that you’d rather wait until the snow clears up and you prepare to do your spring cleaning. However, dead trees can attract pests and tend to fall over more easily, making them hazardous to your yard. You may choose to seek the help of a tree care professional to identify and remove dead trees.
We understand that winter is a tough time for tree owners. At Green Thumb, we can offer expert advice and services to help restore your yard to its best condition — no matter what hand nature deals to your yard. In the meantime, check our winter tree survival tips above.