It’s official. With the arrival of the season’s first snowstorm and plunging temperatures, it’s safe to say the winter weather season is here, for some of us, at least. Whether you are cozied up next to a fire or still enjoying the mild temperatures outdoors, now is the time to prepare your trees for winter’s potential slick conditions.
The northern U.S. and Canada are no strangers to the struggles of the season, especially after last year’s brutal winter. Before temperatures get any colder and the snow begins to fall, protect your trees from possible ice damage.
1. Hydrate now: Since trees receive water from their roots, a frozen ground equals a frozen water supply. If you are in a region that is susceptible to frozen soil due to snow and ice storms, hydrate your trees’ roots now to help them survive the winter and combat insufficient water supplies.
2. Prune, cable or brace: After a snow or ice storm hits, your trees are now faced with added weight on their branches, which can lead to bending and breaking. Your first instinct is probably to attempt to shake off the ice from the branches, but think again. Instead, prune, cable or brace weak, diseased or unsafe branches.
3. Say no to salt: Road salt can be a tree’s worst enemy. If there are large beds of ice or snow around your tree, never throw salt in an attempt to melt it. It’s best to leave the snow or ice where it is. In fact, it’s the salt inside of the snow or ice piles—built up from plowing-- that actually damages your tree, not the piles themselves.
Even though you may not be expecting inches of snow or sub-zero temperatures, you can prepare your trees for cooler temperatures you typically experience this season.
1. Dormant prune: Since your trees are in their inactive season, it is actually the best time to prune. Dormant pruning can help trees withstand winter damage and protect against insects and disease.
2. More mulch: Mulching your trees, especially those that are young, helps retain moisture in the soil, protect roots against colder weather and reduces moisture lost to weed competition. Surround your tree’s base with 1- to 3-inch-deep spread of mulch.
3. Inspect for insects: Certain insects use trees as resting place over the winter. For example, scale insects overwinter on twigs and bark, and aphids embed egg in bark crevices. An application of horticultural oil during the dormant season can help suppress spring infestations.
4. Don’t forget your palms: Palms should be protected from freezing temperatures by applying a fungicide to the crown to protect the single growing bud from infection. Also, wrapping the fronds upwards will provide a protected environment that reduces the likelihood of damage to the bud.