Trees are attractive additions to any landscape and each tree can tell a story of what it has survived. The color and health of the foliage, the condition of the tree’s bark, and the width of the tree’s growth rings all contribute to the mystery of the life the tree has experienced.

A vibrant tree will add a degree of color and character to your front or backyard. To ensure that the tree remains healthy and strong throughout the year, it is imperative that it receives the correct care and maintenance. One aspect of tree maintenance is preparing the tree for winter as this is the period when they are most susceptible to damage caused by severe weather and cold temperatures. Below are six top tips on how to keep trees healthy during winter.

1. Cleaning Up The Canopy And Foliage

The first step to effective tree care during the winter is to inspect the tree’s canopy and inspect for damaged, loosely hanging or dead branches. Light pruning can be conducted to remove any of these broken or dead branches, as well as removing any ivy or vines that could add weight to the more tenuous tree branches. This is especially important when tending younger and newly planted trees as excess weight can damage or snap growing limbs. A tree canopy covered with ivy or clematis will find it more difficult to withstand the pressure of wind or weight of additional snow.

2. Maintaining The Trunk And Bark

It is important to thoroughly inspect the tree truck and bark. All trees with structural defects will present with a higher probability of additional or severe damage as a result of exposure to ice, snow or heavy winds. During these checks you should look for the following issues:

– Dead Wood

Dead wood refers to the dead segments of the tree trunk. It can also refer to limbs that are brittle and unable to resist heavy wind. This is particular dangerous to homes if the larger limb is on a tree planted close to the residence.

– Decay

A tree with hollow areas or decay may be prone to failure, but limited decay does not necessarily mean that the tree is hazardous. A tree will typically experience decay from within and this is how the hollow cavity forms. Despite this procedure, the new wood is constantly being added to the outside section of the tree as it continues to grow. If the external section appears structurally healthy, then the tree can be considered safe. It is important that the decaying areas are evaluated by a professional arborist.

– Cracks

When searching for cracks in a tree’s structure you must look for deep splits extending through the bark and exposing the new wood underneath. A crack is a strong indicator of potential tree or branch failure.

3. Check The Root System

It is vital that you survey the root system of the tree when conducting tree maintenance. All trees with significantly exposed root systems or damaged roots are highly likely to fall when faced with severe storms. If over 50% of the root system has been cut or crushed, if the tree is beginning to lean, or if the soil is being forced up around the base of the tree on the opposite side of the lean, then it is recommended that the tree be evaluated by a professional arborist to determine its safety. It is also advised that you inspect the root and base of the tree for fungus or decay. Excavating the base of a tree can assist in keeping the root system healthy and intact.

4. Mulching

Covering the soil surrounding the base of the tree with a layer of mulch can be beneficial as part of tree maintenance. This is particularly important when caring for recently planted and young trees that are susceptible to root damage. The layer of mulch should be at least 4-8 inches think and placed around the base of the tree without touching the tree trunk. Ideally, the mulch should be spread at least 2 feet from the trunk. Mulch, wood chips, tree bark, and hay can protect the roots against damage from ground thawing and re-freezing. It will also assist in providing moisture to the tree root by retaining water.

5. Wrapping Young Trees

Young or newly planted trees, particularly fruit trees, need to be wrapped during winter. This will act as protection against bark splitting that can occur when the temperature fluctuates. The vertical cracks occur when bark separates from the wood and will ultimately result in tree decay. To wrap the trees, it is recommended you use tree wrap fabric, burlap, or other sturdy fabrics that can survive winter months. The wrapping should start at the bottom of the tree and move upward to below the first branches.

6. Tying The Branches

Tying center branches together loosely with twine is important when preparing trees for winter. This is particularly helpful for evergreen trees as they are more susceptible to damage from ice and snow. Tying the branches will assist in preventing breaking and splitting.


(c) Can Stock Photo / PinkBadger

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