Even though trees go dormant in the winter, there are a few things that we can do at this time of year to keep them healthy for years to come.
- WRAP YOUR TRUNKS
You may have seen vertical cracks in the trunks of trees. These are called frost cracks, and can result from varying temperatures on the tree trunks in the winter. Thin-barked trees, such as maples, are more susceptible to this. You may also have noticed damage due to browsing or rubbing by wildlife such as deer, rabbits and voles. All of these can cause significant damage, and may even be fatal to a tree, especially when young.
- Install trunk guards as close to the ground as you can, even digging it a couple of inches into the ground if possible to protect against voles.
- Extend trunk guards about 4’ tall to protect against deer and any small animals that may stand on top of snow drifts in winter.
- For multi-stem trees or trees with low branches, try making a cage out of hardware fabric as an alternative to trunk guards.
- Remove wraps in Spring to allow for air circulation and new growth.
- PREVENT WINTER DRY-OUT
Many evergreens in our area are susceptible to winter “desiccation”, or drying out. You will typically see this on portions of the plant that are most exposed to winter wind, and will generally see damage starting at the tips of the branches. There a few things we can do to help prevent this.
- Water evergreens right up to the first frost, especially new plantings that may still be establishing root systems.
- Wrap evergreens in burlap to protect against winter wind.
- If salt spray is also an issue, use stakes with burlap to prevent direct contact with the salt soaked fabric.
- Ask about anti-desiccant sprays at your local garden center.
- Remove burlap as soon as possible in early Spring to allow sun exposure and air circulation.
- TO PRUNE, OR NOT TO PRUNE?
Winter is an ideal time to prune many trees. However, winter pruning can affect flowering and may contribute to “bleeding” sap in some species. There are also many proper pruning techniques to keep in mind when pruning trees. When in doubt, contact an arborist. However, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- Have your oak trees pruned in winter to help avoid oak wilt.
- Clean, disinfect and air dry pruning tools regularly.
- Always prune back to a bud or a branch—do not leave stubs.
- Do not attempt to prune anything within 10 feet of a power line.