Caring for trees can be an involved process, requiring regular care, maintenance and inspections. But when wintertime rolls around, and the trees shed the leaves they have carried the rest of the year, do they require as much care? After all, any insects or other pests that torment them must be dormant, right? And will they require pruning if the leaves and branches are already falling off?
The answer to whether or not trees need to be cared for in the winter is a resounding YES! Just as they need to be cared for during the rest of the year, trees must be given attention during the coldest months. Preparing trees for winter is actually crucial for them to survive and thrive the rest of the year. Exactly how much attention, and what type of care they need, depends on the type of tree and the climate where you live. Here are a few tips on tree care during the cold winter months:
Protect your tree from animals
One risk that becomes of particular concern during the icy winter months are attacks on trees from pest animals. While fungal spores and many insect species may be largely dormant during the winter, animals ranging from rats to raccoons to deer will find that their access to food during the winter is largely limited. As a result, they will start seeking nourishment in other areas, including the bark of unprotected trees.
Animals gnawing on the bark can do serious damage to, and even kill, your tree and so preparing trees for winter must always involve taking some steps to protect them from pest animals. One way of doing this is to wrap the tree in plastic; this will keep most animals away but may cause the tree to overheat when the sun returns. Using chicken wire can be a better option; it will prevent animals from nibbling on your tree while also allowing it to breath.
You can also consider building a fence around all of your trees; it shouldn’t go particularly deep, as a fence that’s too deep can damage the roots of the tree. Fences that go deep underground are not necessary during the winter anyway as the ground will freeze and prevent animals from digging through it. You can also place bait nearby the tree to draw away animals’ attention or use a special spray designed to repel pests. You may need to reapply this spray regularly.
Prune the tree, but only at the right time
Preparing trees for winter also involves making sure they are as healthy as possible before the cold season starts. If the tree is not properly cared for during the summer and autumn months, it can become extra vulnerable to frost damage once the weather turns cold. A big part of ensuring your trees health during winter is to make sure it is pruned properly. You must also make sure the timing is right when having your tree trimmed. Prune the tree too soon before winter, and all the small branches will grow back somewhat by winter, leaving a lot of small, vulnerable spots that can be easily damaged by the cold. Ideally, you should wait until the late autumn, when the tree has already become dormant for the winter. That way, pruning will not encourage the growth of new branches that will be killed by the frosts. If, at any time, you are unsure of when or how to prune your tree, the best thing you can do is to secure the help of a tree service. A reliable tree service, such as us at Mr. Tree, can inspect your tree and recommend the best time to offer care; then they can prune your tree at the right time to ensure maximum health throughout the year.
Make sure your tree has plenty of water
One problem that trees face during the cold months is known as winter drought. Winter drought, quite simply, is when trees cannot access enough water due to the ground freezing as the temperature drops. While you can’t prevent the ground from freezing, you can limit the damage it causes around your tree by placing a layer of mulch all over the roots. This will slow the freezing process and limit the loss of moisture from your tree. Preventative measures can also help, as making sure the tree has plenty of water during the summer months can go a long way to keeping it healthy once winter arrives. Especially with younger trees that have not become fully established yet, you may need to water your trees with a garden hose occasionally during the summer. With older trees, this is less of a concern but on rare occasions, such as droughts, you may still have to consider watering your trees.
A Few More Steps
Other measures that you must take when preparing your trees for winter will vary depending on the tree and the climate. Proper tree care starts before the tree is even planted. Needless to say, the best trees to select for your area are ones that are already acclimated to whichever hardiness zone you happen to live in. After planting, younger trees will need special attention, especially in the first year of their lives. As the trees get larger, the maintenance they require will decrease, but you will always need to take some care to look after the health of your tree.
It’s often possible to prevent freezing by wrapping your tree in a blanket; just take care to check regularly that your tree isn’t becoming overheated, as the sun can be deceptively hot during certain winter days. If there are large branches on your tree, you might want to consider having your local tree service cable and brace them to prevent them from falling should there be inclement weather.
Having regular inspections and maintenance performed by a trusted tree service should really be your priority no matter what time of year it is; they will help you to ensure that your tree is healthy no matter the season.