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Before you find ice on your tree this winter (or fall), think about the proper way to protect its limbs.

Why Winter Tree Preparation Applies in Fall

October 23, 2014

The following blog post has been adapted from the "Plant New, Prepare Old Before Winter Hits" piece Davey contributed to icma.org.

When it comes to landscapes, the fall months offer more than just a chance to enjoy the splendor of autumn leaves.

Fall is a good time to plant new shrubs and trees.

The remaining months ahead of winter offer landscape managers and property owners a chance to do two things: safeguard their trees against snow and ice damage and give new plants a chance to take hold before the ground freezes.

Stop Ice Damage

The weight of ice on branches, especially weak or diseased limbs, can cause serious damage to your tree and any property a heavy limb potentially falls on.

How can you stop ice from damaging your trees? Proper pruning is the best method. Pruners looking to prevent ice damage should focus on removal of weak, narrow-angled and V-shaped crotches, according to the North Carolina State University Extension.

If you find yourself in the middle of winter with a bunch of ice-covered limbs on trees throughout your property, it’s important not to try shaking the ice loose. The ice cover can actually make limbs brittle, and shaking a frail branch can do more harm than good by breaking it or damaging the tree’s circulatory system.

Trees that tend to suffer the worst damage as a result of snow and ice are upright evergreens like arborvitae and juniper or clump trees like birch, according to research by the University of Minnesota Extension. On these trees, locating and pruning weak-jointed branches before they become a problem is important.

Combat ice damage with a few simple steps.

Slow-growing trees like oak are less likely to lose limbs. And, when it comes to ice, age does not make a tree stronger. Younger trees actually tend to survive better in ice storms, so if you’re pruning is limited you might want to focus on your older trees.

Mulch your trees before winter to insulate moisture in the soil during the colder months. Mulch is particularly important for young trees and other young plants.

Because ice and snow can weigh on limbs, it’s also a good idea to cable weak branches ahead of the winter season to add bracing and help prevent heavy breakages.

Plant Ahead of Winter

Before winter strikes, the cool, moist soil offered by fall months provides a great opportunity to plant new trees and shrubs so they can develop a solid footing for winter and get a head start for the coming spring.

Davey Tree offers five tips for your fall landscape, including:

  1. Plant new trees and shrubs.
  2. Prune dead, diseased or unsafe branches.
  3. Mulch young trees and plants.
  4. Collect leaves for compost.
  5. Inspect trees and shrubs for insects and disease.

How is your landscape holding up this fall? If you need more tips and advice before preparing it for the winter months, contact us for a free consultation.


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