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How Are Your Trees Handling the Mild Winter Temperatures?

March 16, 2012

We've been blessed with several mild days within the past few months. I have certainly appreciated the additional opportunities I've had to spend some time outdoors, but these constant fluctuating temperatures sure are confusing.

It's difficult for people to adjust to colder temperatures and snow after enjoying a few consecutive days of sunshine and moderate temperatures. But it's also difficult for trees to handle such rapid temperature fluctuations.

While people can seek shelter indoors to fulfill their daily health and nutritional needs, trees aren't so fortunate. They need water, just like us. And, like most of us, they can become stressed. So when the ground freezes over, or when the hot, dry summer climate arrives, drought stress may affect your trees.

Cumulative Damage. Dr. Bal Rao, Davey's research and technical development manager, says "the effect of drought is cumulative." In other words, one drought period can cause damage for years to come.

"Trees are fighters," he says. "Under drought conditions, they'll borrow stored energy from past years to reproduce and maintain new leaves." The new leaves will then replace prematurely dropped leaves with no additional function or scorch damage.

But Rao says trees can go bankrupt, too. When reserved energy is depleted and disorders occur season after season, he says, "eventually there is nothing left."

tree with hand heart

When soil between the roots dries up, the soil pulls away from the root, Rao explains. "The tree can't take in water and nutrients without roots that absorb well - it doesn't register correctly," he says. The roots then send signals to the leaves, which react to dehydration by wilting and ultimately dropping from the tree if the problem is not addressed.

"It's a backward/forward progression," Rao says. "The roots affect the canopy and the canopy affects the roots the next year, and so on. Early detection is key. If the roots are healthy, the canopy is typically healthy."

Conduct a spring inspection of your trees to pinpoint any problems and ensure they start spring off healthy. For some tips on how to do this right, learn from a professional arborist and watch this short video on how to properly conduct a spring inspection.

Most of us can remember the last time we were stressed out and why. Consider the health of your trees during stressful, fluctuating and harsh climate conditions. You don't want to make problems any worse, so be gentle with your trees. They'll better appreciate your care and ultimately display beautiful blooms come spring and summer.

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