Winter Tree Protection
From Root to Branch
February 4, 2021
If you think it’s tough being outside in harsh winter weather, just think about the trees! They have to brace themselves for high winds, heavy snow, crippling ice, and hungry animals. While you may not want to wrap them in hats, scarves, and gloves, there are ways of providing some winter tree protection.
Winter Tree Protection
Nature may have intended trees to be exposed to the elements, but there are ways to help them gear up for the season. More care is needed for young and newly planted trees that are less established. While mature trees may have a more stable root system, they may also need more attention toward any weakening branches.
One of the best ways to protect your trees any time of year is regular maintenance. Of course, most of these steps should happen in the spring and fall to help trees build their strength for the dormant winter. It’s best to focus on the three major areas of a tree that need the most protection: roots, trunk, and branches.
Protect the Roots in Winter
Here are some simple tips to help your tree properly establish its root system:
- Water young trees, even in winter, for adequate soil moisture through their first few years. Irrigation may help in areas where the ground freezes.
- Add a few inches of mulch around the tree, but away from the trunk, in the late fall. This helps insulate the soil and absorb moisture.
- Stake any tree that is too heavy or in an area that is prone to high winds. It’s okay if the trunk continues to sway.
- Keep any de-icing salt products away from new trees as this can affect the roots from absorbing nutrients.
Winter Trunk Protection
While you’re working on building a strong foundation for your tree, you can also help protect the trunk to keep it as sturdy as possible.
- The bark on young tree trunks is sought after by a variety of gnawing rodents, such as rabbits and voles. They’ll even eat down to the growing tissue beneath the bark, causing irreversible damage. There are some topical repellents, but it needs to be reapplied after any wet weather and it’s not always effective.
- Barricade tree trunks with plastic tree guards or wire cages to help keep pests out. Be sure the wall reaches above any snow line, or else the animal will snack as it sits atop a snowdrift.
- Sunscald is caused by strong rays that thaw bark by day only to refreeze at night. The constant flux in temperature ruptures and cracks the trunk. You can help prevent it by wrapping trunks with crepe paper or by painting trunks with diluted white latex paint.
Beware of Branches
Between heavy snow and ice and whipping winds, tree branches are likely to break off during winter. Here’s how to help.
- You can help prevent damage to your tree and property by pruning any branches that are already dead, dying, or diseased.
- Help alleviate the weight of snow by lightly brushing it off branches in upward motions.
- There are also mesh covers available to help protect upright evergreens from being weighed down.
Even though winter is the dormant season and there’s not a lot of maintenance to do around the yard, use these tips to help save your trees from winter’s wrath and look forward to a lush and lovely spring.
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