By Nancy Penrose
As you’re getting ready for winter, you’ll probably want to ensure you have enough warm clothes, snow tires for your car and other common sense things to ensure you’re prepared for the colder months. But how about your trees? Are they prepared for winter?
Winter can be a hard time for trees. Particularly for younger trees, if they aren’t cared for properly they can sustain damage that is hard to recover from. In the worst case scenario, the tree might not make it. So, knowing how to care for your trees, particularly younger trees, is very important to ensure they have the best chance of coming into spring healthy.
Here are our top tips for caring for your trees this winter.
Winter is an ideal time to prune your trees. In particular, you don’t want to prune too early. Pruning your trees once they have entered dormancy is important for several reasons. Pruning a tree BEFORE it enters dormancy encourages it to grow during the winter season, which is bad for the tree. Pruning a tree AFTER it enters dormancy is ideal.
When pruning your tree you want to focus on removing dead, dying, diseased or otherwise damaged branches. If you aren’t sure about which branches need to be pruned, or if you’re not sure how to do it without injuring the tree, it’s best to contact a tree care professional for assistance.
During the winter months you don’t need to water your trees. Be sure to turn your irrigation off and bring any timers that are on your hosebibs inside at the first threat of freeze. When threat of freeze has passed (typically late March or early April) put new batteries in your timers and then set them up again.
Mulch is important all year round, but especially in winter! It helps seal in the natural warmth from the ground as well as the moisture the tree needs in order to survive.
To optimally use mulch, cover the soil around the base of the tree in a 3-5 inch layer of mulch. You actually want to start a few inches away from the trunk of the tree and then extend the mulch about 2 feet. Starting the mulch right up against the trunk can cause too much moisture to be trapped in the roots which leads to decay and some diseases.
Protection from Freezing
If you have a particularly vulnerable tree, like a very young tree or one that was recently transplanted, you will want to consider some protection from freezing. You can cover a tree with burlap or a tree-friendly tarp. This can help keep the earth’s naturally accumulated warmth. If the weather drops below freezing, you’ll want to be prepared to protect your more vulnerable trees.
Winter is a time where rodents may try to seek shelter in your trees. They will also seek to forage for scarce food. All of this can cause damage to your trees and must be handled rapidly when it comes up. Check for this fairly frequently and set out traps if you see them. You can also call an animal control specialist to help get rid of any pests/rodents that are persistent.
Following these common sense tips can go a long way to keeping your trees healthy and able to survive through to spring. If you also consult a tree care specialist as needed, your trees will have an excellent chance of continuing to thrive for many years, no matter how frightful the weather is.
Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at https://bigtreesupply.com/blog/ or https://arboristblog.com/. They can be reached at 360-563-2700.