Winter Tree Care Do’s and Don’ts
By John Stonaker, Jan 17 2020 06:23PM
Use the winter months to provide needed care for the trees on your residential or commercial property. When the trees are dormant, the leaves are gone and the branches are clearly visible, making it a perfect opportunity to provide some much-needed structural and preventive care so you can enjoy your trees for years to come. Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember about winter tree care.
DO inspect your trees: Do any branches look too close to the house or electric wires? Do any branches seem weak or growing in an odd direction?
DON’T do any major projects yourself: Trees near buildings and other important outdoor spaces should be inspected by an expert who knows what to look for. Don’t guess. An expert can recognize when a tree may need cabling to save a major limb. Sometimes a sick, damaged, or poorly placed tree needs to be removed. The winter is the best time for major work, since the ground is likely frozen, making it easier to move in heavier equipment, and the gardens are dormant, causing less disruption of the landscaping.
DO prune: Pruning removes dead, damaged, or weak branches, helps create an aesthetic and healthy shape, and encourages new growth. In the winter, your tree specialist can better see the tree’s branching and provide optimal pruning. And since the tree is dormant, the pruning will induce a burst of new growth in the spring, when the tree is at its peak strength. Winter pruning will also prevent the spread of insects or disease, since they are also dormant.
DON’T do the pruning yourself: Small branches near the ground can be pruned by property owners safely, but any major pruning or any pruning that requires a ladder should be left only to the experts. Tree specialists and arborists have both the training and the special equipment to properly and safely prune your trees. Doing it yourself could risk your safety, damage your property, and harm the tree.
DO mulch: If you didn’t mulch in the autumn, do it now. Mulching retains moisture, insulates against extreme temperatures, and increases nutrients in the soil.
DO mulch correctly: Applying mulch against the trunk of the tree can encourage rot and insect infestation. Mulching too deeply can encourage roots to grow up in search of moisture instead of down into the soil. For details on correct mulching techniques, read Mulching and Edging Around Trees.
DO wrap some trees: Wrapping your trees in the winter can protect them from damage caused by cold, wind, animals, or road debris. Burlap is the most common material, and can be wrapped around the tree itself or can be staked like a fence around the tree.
DON’T wrap incorrectly: Do some research to determine if your tree actually needs wrapping and the best way to wrap for your particular variety and its location.
DO use dormant oil insecticide: Just like your trees, insects are dormant during the winter, preparing for a burst of growth in the spring. Now is the time to coat them with dormant oil that will smother larvae and eggs laid on the trees, with minimal or no damage to beneficial insects.
DON’T use oils incorrectly: Be sure to use oils that are made for your specific tree variety. Don’t use the same oil on trees not listed on the label just because you don’t want to buy another one. Be sure that it is specifically marked as a dormant oil, and apply only when the tree is completely dormant.
Taking a little time to care for your trees in the winter will reap rewards when the growing season returns. Contact us here at Stonaker to help you with your winter tree care needs. We service central New Jersey and surrounding areas.