Winter Care for Trees | Colorado | Front Range Arborists

Winter Care for Trees

As you drive past the beautiful Colorado forests in winter with their holiday card perfection, it may not occur to you that the trees on your property may need extra care for winter.

In fact, with temperature fluctuations and sub-zero weather, for your trees to be their healthiest, you will need to take some precautions. Winter stress can take a toll on the trees in your landscaping if you don’t give them a little extra care.

Stressors Affecting Your Trees

Cold temperatures can stress anyone out – even trees. Sometimes the change in temperature from daytime to nighttime can be drastic enough to cause problems. Trees can experience frost cracking when temperature changes cause stress between the inner wood and outer bark of the tree. This is also called “southwest injury” as it occurs on the southwest side of trees that receive the most sunlight during winter.

Trees may be damaged in their late-growth stages if freezing temperatures bring an early winter. These early frosts can cause the cell walls on new growth to rupture. The ice crystals that form on this new growth will lead to die-off the next season.

Winter drought is another stressor that can occur during colder months. This phenomenon is especially hard on evergreens. You may have noticed that some evergreens look like they have withered in the spring with dry brown branches. This occurs when a tree becomes too dry during the winter and early spring. When the sun warms the tree, but the ground is frozen and the roots cannot absorb enough moisture, the tree eventually may succumb to winter drought.

Thick winter snowfall can be beautiful and at the same time, it can take a toll on trees, both deciduous and evergreens. The weight of heavy snow can cause brittle branches to break. Deciduous trees are particularly vulnerable to branch breakage in the winter. The wood becomes harder causing branches to be less flexible. When blustery winter winds buffet the trees, these branches may break.

Trees are not only stressed out by weather extremes. They may also come under attack by animals. Deer may strip bark from trees during deep snow cover. When food becomes scarce, rodents may look to the trees for sustenance. As they chew the bark around the tree’s base, they can cause girdling. Mice and rabbits are the main offenders.

Unfortunately, you cannot change the weather patterns or determine how much moisture your trees are going to absorb during the winter and early spring. Beyond getting cats to patrol your yard, you may think there is little you can do to stop rodents from making your trees their cafeteria in hard times. Nature will take its course; however, in each of these situations, there are things you can do to ease or eliminate the problem.

Solutions for Winter Stressors

In the case of stressors brought on by cold weather, you can protect your trees, especially the young ones, by wrapping the bark. There are wraps you can get for your trees that may help prevent frost cracking. Keep in mind that if a tree already has this injury, the cracking may continue as the tree grows. While most trees repair themselves, this wound can leave it vulnerable to more serious damage if it continues. There are also products that will help reduce moisture loss through the winter.

Preparing your trees for the winter months includes knowing what to do and what not to do. It is fine to fertilize your trees with the proper fertilizer for fall. Quick release nitrogen fertilizer is not recommended.

Anything that encourages a late growth spurt before winter can cause damage the following season since the new growth will be impacted by inclement weather. In addition to avoiding fertilizers that will promote new growth, you also need to avoid pruning your trees before winter comes unless you know they are in the dormant stage. Frost damage may occur if you prune your trees too early.

You certainly are not going to be able to water your trees in the wintertime; however you can help them hold the moisture better. A thick blanket of organic mulch at the base of your trees will help when putting down in the fall before winter comes. The mulch holds in moisture that is absorbed by the trees and it slows runoff.

In the fall, you can prune weak branches. You may want to consider tying up the branches on larger evergreens that look like they may be vulnerable to breaking under heavy snowfall. Tiny trees and shrubs can be protected with a sturdy tent-like cover to prevent winter branch breakage.

Rodents can be repelled by brush-on repellent or, in the case of rabbits, you can put wire-mesh enclosures around the tree base. If you leave a little space between the mulch and the base of the tree, you will be able to monitor what is happening. If you see signs of rodent snacking, you can put out bait or traps.

Front Range Arborists provide professional care for your trees and turf. Keep the trees in your yard healthy and looking their best by contacting us for help. Our certified professional arborists provide excellent service beyond your expectations. Call us today for a free estimate.