By John Stonaker, Feb 19 2020 09:10PM
Once winter sets in, your trees can become stressed. Their only self-defense against winter is to go dormant. While this decreases their need for nutrients, it still leaves them susceptible to the caprice of winter weather. Take a little time to give your trees TLC in the winter and they will reward you with healthier growth in the spring.
Heavy snow: Healthy branches can endure light snowfall, but when snow is wet and heavy, it can cause them to droop to the breaking point. When you see tree branches sagging significantly, you can brush the snow off carefully with your hand or a broom, brushing in an upward movement if possible, in order to avoid pushing the branches down farther. Shaking a branch is not recommended, as that can increase the risk of it snapping.
A word of caution: Only address the branches you can reach comfortably! Do not try to reach higher branches by standing on something in the winter. The conditions are too dangerous and you can become seriously injured. Call your tree specialist, who has the equipment to properly reach higher branches.
Limb breakage: Clean up fallen limbs and branches if they’ve broken clear off. As already mentioned, do not try to prune branches that are out of your reach. If limbs are partially broken and do not pose a hazard, you can safely wait until later in the winter to prune them, to avoid any further harm to the tree when it is dormant. If, however, the break is to an important or large branch, or if any part of the tree poses a safety hazard, call in your tree specialist to remove the broken or dead branches. Now is a good time to make plans with them to prune your trees safely in late winter, to achieve the best results in the spring.
Drought: Your trees may experience drought if there has been little precipitation, little snow cover, or significant winds. Watering once or twice a month is recommended, but only when the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you did not mulch in late autumn, do so now. Deliver water through a soaker hose, out near the drip line where the ends of the roots are, not near the trunk. Your tree service can also advise you where best to position your hoses. Water early in the day so the tree has time to soak up the water, which should wet the soil at least 6 inches deep.
Animal pests: Animals need to eat in the winter, too, but you don’t want them eating your trees. If you have mulched up to the trunk, remove the mulch to at least 6 inches away, both to avoid rot and to take away cover for small rodents. Put up a mesh barrier to deter small animals. Mouse traps can also be helpful as can deer repellant which can help deter deer from feasting on your plants and low branches.
Cold, wind, salt: It’s not too late to put up burlap barriers to protect your trees and evergreens from excessive winds or salt from the road. When using salt on your driveway, use less harmful de-icers such as calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate. Alternatively, if you have plants near your driveway and walkways, try using sand, sawdust, or other abrasives to provide traction rather than salt.
With tree care, protection is the best medicine. Keeping your trees well-watered throughout the other seasons, having a regular pruning plan, and controlling insects and pests year round will result in fewer problems in the winter. But winter weather can derail the best of care regimens; if that happens, call a professional who has the proper training and the proper equipment to help you. If you are in or near the Central New Jersey area, call us here at Stonaker to see how we can help you.