Trees require care throughout the winter to maintain their health

Even though urban trees are now going into dormancy, they require care before and during the winter to stay healthy. Here are some tips:

  • Wrap the trunk. Some recently planted, thin-barked trees like honeylocust, ash, maple and linden are susceptible to bark-damaging sunscald and frost cracks when temperatures fluctuate in fall and winter. Wrap trunks of younger trees up to the first branches using commercial tree wrap to protect the bark. Remember to take the wrap off, once weather warms in the spring.
  • Mulch. Spread 2 to 4 inches of wood chips, bark or other organic mulch over the root system of the tree. It will help reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption and insulate against temperature extremes. To prevent rodent damage, and the possibility of rot, make sure that mulch does not rest against the trunk of the tree. Consider layering leaves around the base of each tree as natural mulch.
  • Prune, but not too early or not too late. Although trees can also be pruned in the summer during active growth, late winter is often a favorite time for pruning. Remove dead branches and improve form, but make sure you are doing it correctly. Always prune at the branch collar – the point where a branch joins a larger one – and don’t remove any branches without good reason. Follow this link to find out more about pruning trees.
  • Give them a drink. Water trees throughout the dripline of the tree; that is the area from just outside the trunk to the outer edge of the longest branches. Trees need about 10 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter. Long, slow watering will assure that water reaches down into the root zone.

If this winter brings long periods of dry weather (2-3 weeks without snow cover), and the ground is not frozen, it is a good idea to provide trees with supplemental water.

photo: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org
photo: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org