How to Take Care of Your Trees in the Winter
As we get into the colder winter months, your tree care routine may need to be updated a little bit.
The amount of special tasks you will have to complete for your local trees will really depend on what you have growing the climate that you live in. However, if you are dealing with any kinds of cold fronts and/or snow and ice , this may be just the guide for you.
First let’s start with what cold weather actually does to your trees.
The Stress of the Cold on Your Trees
Cold weather can actually really cause some stress to your trees, and it manifests itself in different strange ways.
One effect of the cold comes from the rapid change of the warmth of a winter day to the freezing, dark temperatures of the night. The variations in temperatures can lead to stress inside the tree between the inner wood and outer bark, meaning that the trees could crack. This cracking is referred to as southwest injury or frost cracking.
So how do you deal with this problem? Unfortunately, there are not too many solutions for frost cracking. However, the tree in question is often able to actually heal itself, even though the cracked area will still remain open for the winter.
The other solution to this problem is simply preventing it before it happens. Consider wrapping your tree bark in the late fall so you don’t have to experience this issue at all.
Another fairly common winter problem for trees is dealing with early frosts. Trees that are experiencing late growth in the season may experience some stunting due to frosts that they aren’t yet prepared for. Ice crystals on the trees can actually rupture the cell walls on the new tips of the branches, which will lead to them dying off the following season
To avoid this issue, you should not prune the trees until you are sure they have gone into dormancy at the end of fall. Pruning too early could possibly encourage new growth and increase the risk of them experiencing frost damage.
Dealing With Brittle or Breaking Branches
Due to heavy snow and ice, your branches are more likely to break and be damaged by the extra weight they are carrying. This is especially true for deciduous trees , because the wood hardens and actually becomes very brittle and more likely to experience wind damage.
To minimize branch breakage, make sure that you prune off any weak and dying branches before the winter season starts. If you are dealing with really small trees or bushes, consider covering them completely with a tent-like home for the winter season. You can also tie up branches to reinforce them as well.
Dealing With Winter Drought
Drying out can be a huge issues for trees in the winter, especially your evergreens. Drought occurs when your trees lose more water than it can soak up from the frozen ground. If you are dealing with a lot of extra wind, this can also worsen the problem.
This is a problem that doesn’t really have a specific solution. However, laying down a nice, thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree at the end of fall/beginning of winter. This can help to slow down moisture loss and run off, and it will also keep your roots warm for the cold months.
Winter can bring out rodent pests that are foraging around and on trees for a food source. The major pests during this season are typically rabbits and mice, both of which are able to chew through bark and can actually girdle trees.
To guard against mice, you should leave a space between the trunk of the tree and the mulch around it, and check that space frequently. You may have to set out bait to catch them if they become too much of a problem.
For rabbits, wire mesh or paint-on repellents are great deterrents.
Our Final Thoughts on Winter Tree Care
Taking care of your trees this winter doesn’t have to be too complicated. Just be mindful of what issues they are having and how to fix them!
If you run into any issues in the San Francisco Bay Area, feel free to contact us for assistance at any time as well!