Jan 18, 2022
Many are still seeing effects the 2021 winter freeze had on our trees. As we begin seeing stronger cold fronts move across the state, there are a few things that can be done to help “winterize” and protect our trees:
Prune: Winter is the best time to prune trees because that is when they are dormant. Removing dead branches through pruning can improve the form of the tree which in turn helps maintain its strength and health, making them more resistant for large stressors like freezing temperatures.
Water: Even though trees are dormant through the winter, they still need water. Water can act as an insulator in the soil - moist soil will be warmer in the winter months. Trees don’t need to be watered as frequently in the winter, only in the absence of precipitation should they be watered once or twice a month until spring. When watering, water slowly and deeply at a rate of 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter. The best time to water is when the temperature is above 40 degrees and earlier in the day, so the water has time to soak into the soil.
Mulch: Mulch can be a great tool to retain heat and moisture in the soil. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch that spreads from 3 inches away from the base of the tree to the drip line can add a protective layer from the cold.
Wrap: The sun can be quite damaging to a young or thin barked tree on a cold winter day, it can heat up the tree’s bark, stimulating activity. When this happens and then passing clouds drift by, blocking the sun, bark temperature can drop rapidly, damaging or killing that active tissue. The resulting damage is called sunscald. Sunscald can be avoided in younger or newly planted trees by wrapping the trunk for winter tree protection. Wrap the bark of susceptible trees with either tree wrap tape, plastic tree guards or similar light colored material. Remove the wrap in the spring after the last frost, to avoid insects living under the material during the summer.
The best thing you can do for your tree is keep it healthy the rest of the year. If a tree is healthy overall, the stress from winter weather will be less likely to cause long term damage to your tree. When in doubt, always contact a certified arborist for assistance.