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How to Protect Your Trees in the Winter

It may be a surprise to find that trees should be winterized. Everyone knows that heavy snow can break or damage tree branches, but many don’t know that winter can also subject your trees to a host of other problems. The better shape your trees are in before winter, the better they will be able to withstand those problems and stay healthy.

Problems include early cold snaps that can damage trees that haven’t yet completely hardened for the winter. New or young trees can actually move the trees upwards when the soil freezes and thaws, exposing roots to the cold. Dark bark heats up in the sun and can crack when the temperature goes down in the evening. Conifers, especially, can dry out with drier winter winds and sun. Animals such as mice, rabbits and deer will gnaw the bark and twigs when food is scarce in the winter.

Although snow cover actually provides moisture and insulation to the soil, heavy snow is an obvious problem when it settles on branches and creates extra weight causing dead branches to come down more quickly. Be prepared for winter and call My Patriot Tree Service today.

Snowy Trees

How to Winterize a Tree?

Strategic tree pruning is very important to help winterize any type of tree, such as fruit trees. Remove any damaged or dead wood. The longer a branch is dead, the more moisture it will absorb when it rains, causing it to break. It’s also a good idea to prune branches that might touch the ground when loaded down with snow or heavy rain. Also, remove suckers or sprouts growing from the tree base or trunk. These take up nutrients unnecessarily and the tree will benefit from the removal of unnecessary weight.

If your soil is compacted or doesn’t drain properly, aerating it now will help. Take care not to damage any roots while doing so. A layer of organic mulch will provide a good blanket for the soil. The mulch should be spread out to the drip line. Keep track of long dry spells. You may need to water the trees, especially for new or young trees. Water when the soil is cool but not frozen.

Young trees that have not formed a strong bark for protection need to have their trunks wrapped. Tender bark is a favorite food for deer and squirrels when other foods are not available, and deer can scrape the bark, causing damage.

What do you cover trees with to protect from frost?

Trees that are imported from warmer climates may be able to withstand winter temperatures in your area but covering them will help them over the winter. Likewise, a late freeze in the spring means that the trees need extra protection to keep their sprouting buds and leaves from damage. Trees can be covered with sheets, tarps, or burlap. It should reach the ground to trap in ground warmth. If possible, use stakes or a frame to keep your wrap from touching the plant as little as possible.

Keep sensitive plants and trees watered in the winter. Damp soil absorbs more of the sun’s warmth during the day and releases it at night. Sufficient moisture also keeps the trees from being stressed. Another tip is to remove growth from around the tree, replacing it with wood chip mulch. The bare ground absorbs and releases heat better than grass or weeds, and the wood chips prevent moisture loss. Another benefit of clearing the ground is that many harmful insects, such as borers, will pupate in the soil around the tree during winter, and clearing away the growth will help to keep them in check.

Will a Tree Recover from Frost Damage?

Unfortunately, late spring freezes can occur, freezing new leaf growth. In some parts of the country, this is common. The effects often aren’t readily apparent for a few days, but eventually, the leaves will turn black and start dropping. Trees and plants do usually recover from frost damage, especially in the late spring, as the spring sun and warmth encourage the trees to shed their dead leaves and sprout new ones. Even if the frost is late, affecting new twigs as well as the leaves on them, your tree will shed these and start over.

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