Winter winds, storms, and cold temperatures can take a toll on your trees as they’re exposed to the elements throughout the season. Younger trees are especially susceptible to damage by freezing weather. Learn some helpful tips about caring for trees in winter.
Pruning Your Trees
Generally, you should not prune trees after the middle of summer. Pruning encourages new growth and delays the tree’s ability to go dormant. However, there are also benefits to waiting until colder weather to trim it back.
When the tree is dormant, it’s easier to see the shape of the tree and branches and choose which limbs to trim. Pruning during winter can also help prevent the spread of disease. If you have dead or dying tree limbs overhanging your house or property, remove them before they fall and cause damage to your home.
Caring for Trees in Winter Involves Watering
Freezing and thawing cause the soil to shift, ultimately heaving the tree out of the ground. This can be especially harmful to younger, less-established trees.
To help prevent this, deeply water your trees until the ground freezes. The water should penetrate at least 12” to 18” to thoroughly soak the soil and reach the roots. Damp soil stays warmer and better insulates tree roots. It’s also heavier and less likely to shift with winter weather.
Use Mulch to Care for Your Trees
If you haven’t already mulched around your trees, wait until the soil has frozen and then apply 3” to 4” of pine needles or bark mulch around your trees. Keep the mulch at least a few inches away from the tree’s trunk. The mulch helps insulate the soil and keeps it from heaving.
Prevent Rodent Damage When Caring for Trees in Winter
Because food is scarce in colder months, rodents and even deer may see your trees as a source of nourishment. Mice, squirrels, and rabbits sometimes chew the outer and inner bark, damaging your tree.
To discourage rodents, keep the mulch a few inches away from the tree and wrap the trunks with plastic tree guards. Another option is to use metal fencing, like chicken wire, installed a few inches from the base of your trees.
Caring for trees in winter doesn’t take much work. Remove any branches that threaten your home or vehicles, but otherwise, you only need to take special care of young trees. They are most susceptible to pests and to being uprooted by shifting soil.