Even though winter is their dormant season, drying winds and freezing temperatures still take a toll on trees. These conditions can cause considerable damage and affect a tree’s health and vitality during growing seasons. By taking a few preventative measures, you can protect and preserve a tree’s health throughout the winter season.
Just like any other time of year, a tree’s root system feeds and nourishes the tree during the winter. This means any disruptions in the soil can damage a tree’s overall health. As winter temperatures can fluctuate from month to month, thawing and freezing soil conditions can damage a tree’s root system. Promoting good drainage within the soil can help
During the late fall or early winter months, adding a two inch layer of organic mulch can help protect tree roots from the effects of freezing and thawing conditions. A good mulch layer will in turn help insulate the soil against extreme temperature changes and reduce overall water loss from the soil.
For many regions, windy conditions are typical of a winter season. Cold, drying winds combined with little to no water flow through the soil environment can create drought-like conditions for tree root systems. By watering trees through the fall and up until the ground freezes, the soil can retain enough water to last through the dry winter months.
Many tree varieties, such as hollies, azaleas and broadleaf evergreens are especially susceptible to drying conditions since much of the tree’s moisture escapes through tree leaves. Water loss can be prevented by spraying tree leaves with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant creates a waxy coating on leaf surfaces, which prevents water loss by sealing moisture in.
Thawing and freezing conditions can also affect the health of a tree’s trunk during winter months. As cold contracts and warmth expands, tree bark cells tend to split and rupture leaving cracks along the trunk. Tree wrappings made of crepe paper can help protect trunk surfaces against changing temperature conditions. Tree wrappings should extend from the bottom of the trunk in overlapping layers up to the lowest branches on the tree. Wrappings can be removed once springtime arrives.
Tree trunks can also become susceptible to damage from rodents during the winter months. Rodents, such as rabbits and moles are known to gnaw on tree bark during the winter, especially on young or newly planted trees. Create a barrier between trunk surfaces and rodents by wrapping tree trunks in chicken wire all the way down to the snow line. Remove once springtime arrives.
Caring for Branches
Caring for tree branches during the winter months can be especially important in areas that see more than their fair share of snow and ice. As snow accumulates on tree branches, the weight of the snow can cause branches to break. Brushing snow off the tops of branches helps prevent undue strain on branch limbs. Ice can also weigh tree branches down, so removing ice build-up helps to preserve dormant limbs.
The loss of leaves during winter makes it easy to see overgrowths or problem areas in a tree that may require pruning. Pruning during the winter months may also be preferable to pruning in warm weather, since disease organisms are dormant in the winter and are less likely to spread to other areas in the tree.