While trees go dormant in the winter, the changes in temperature can cause stress in the tree. Stress can affect trees that are native to your region as can the cold, freezing temperatures and storms.
To ensure your trees are protected during the cold winter months, there are several actions that can be taken throughout the autumn months. Below are just a few of the things that can be done to help winterize your trees, and help ensure a great awakening in the Spring.
Throughout the winter season, the temperatures can rise and fall quite quickly and dramatically. During the day while the sun is out the temperature can rise and generate heat, whereas the night can offer sub-freezing temperatures that can damage trees.
These dramatic changes in temperature can harm the bark and cause it to rupture and crack between the outer bark and inner wood. In many cases, the tree is able to repair and heal on its own. However, if there is too much cracking it can cause permanent damage.
One of the best ways to prevent cracking in younger tress is to wrap the tree in a fabric blanket. The blanket will help to insulate the tree from the dangers of the cold. The bark will also be able to breathe throughout the blanket which allows moisture and light in.
Newly planted and younger trees are most in danger of a process known as southwest injury or sunscald. During a warm sunny day during the winter months it is possible for the temperature of your trees can increase up to 20 degrees higher which can make some of the cells active. However, once the sun is blocked by shadows the bark temperature will drop rapidly Sudden temperature drops will kill the conductive tissue and active cells before the tree is able to return to a state of dormancy.
Once sun scalding has occurred, the cracked areas of the bark will begin to dry out which leads to needles or leaves appearing as though they are brown and the bark will die and fall off. Trees that were moved from a shady to sunny location as those they were recently pruned to help raise the lower branches are the most sensitive. This condition can make the tree vulnerable to falling over in heavy snow or cause death.
During especially cold winter months, deer and squirrels may be forced to feed upon the bark which can kill shrubs and trees. Depending upon the local habitat, you may consider adding an additional food source to protect your trees. Building fencing and other barriers can be costly and difficult. In addition, most animals have a way of finding a way through these barriers to reach a source of food.
One of the best ways to begin protecting your trees from animals is by protecting the base. Using a hard cloth or strong plastic, wrap the base up tight to prevent animals from smelling or chewing on bark. This is also going to help protect your trees during harsh winter temperatures. Be sure that all guards are removed during the spring months to allow for growth.
Heavy or wet snow can cause severe damage to your trees, even toppling them over. If there is an area of your yard that is vulnerable to heavy snow, consider assembling snow screens or burlap wind protectors. These will stand aside from the tree and block any snow from forming on the tree. You must consider typical weather patterns in the area before placing the screen to ensure it will be in working condition.
Mulching is one of the best ways to retain moisture and help provide additional protection against cold While this is typically done during the autumn months, it can be done at the start of winter or during the winter months. Helping to protect your trees during these cold months will ensure they stay healthy all season long.
Younger trees have a more difficult time throughout the cold months. When the soil and trees are cool but not fully frozen, you should ensure they are getting the proper amounts of water to stay fully hydrated.
Winter Month Pruning
Once the leaves have fallen from the tree, it is much easier to see the overall structure of your trees and they can be pruned easier.
However, limit the number of ill-placed and dead branches. Too much pruning can damage trees as they do not have enough time to fully recover during the colder winter months. Take care in preserving as many healthy branches as possible while you care for the overall appearance of the tree.
Also remember that every tree needs to be watered at least once per month during the winter. By following the tips and advice in this article, you can protect your trees during winter and they have a much better chance of making it through winter unscathed.