When the weather outside is frightful, conditions for your trees are anything but delightful.
A winter wonderland can actually create a world of problems for your trees, which are particularly susceptible to injury in the cold months. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest threats your trees are facing this winter, as well as some tips for how to help them thrive come spring.
Threat #1: Falling Limbs
Do you have any trees near your house or car? As beautiful as they can look in spring and summer, they can be a potential source of disaster this winter. Winter stress can cause breakage, which can result in a tree branch falling on your car or in your house.
If you have limbs and branches hanging over your house, car, or any other expensive possessions, you may want to cable or brace them before winter stress causes breakage (this Old House has a great tutorial here
If you notice that your tree’s branches are dead, diseased or close to falling off, it may be best to remove them altogether.
Threat #2: Salty Sidewalks
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Using salt to de-ice sidewalks, walkways and driveways is a common practice in northern regions. Unfortunately for your trees, it can wreak havoc on their health.
Here’s why: salt enters the tree through the roots which can lead to health problems and browning leaves in the spring and summer.
To avoid salt damage, try a more tree-friendly de-icing alternative like calcium chloride (like TruGreen’s Ice Melt, available in select areas), potassium chloride, magnesium chloride.
You can also help your tree defend itself with a snow fence. All you need to do is create a small barrier around your tree with chicken wire or other fencing.
Also, you’ll want to make sure to flush your tree pit with plenty of water in the spring (don’t worry, we’ll remind you when the time comes).
Threat #3: Heavy Snowfall
While it’s great for sledding, building snowmen and snowball fights, heavy snowfall can take a toll on your trees.
Depending on the type of tree you have, you may need to brush snow off branches.
The most susceptible are multistem trees and those with narrow, upright branching; they can be seriously harmed when heavy accumulations pull branches apart.
Help your tree by cleaning up after a snowfall to avoid accumulation, but go easy on the branches while removing snow so you don’t cause any breakage.
We recommend lightly brushing snow off the branches with your hand or a broom, sweeping towards the trunk (sweeping from the top down usually breaks more branches). If the snow is frozen, give it time to melt. Also, remember not to shake snow-covered branches or they might break.
Threat #4: Cold Roots
Mulch It Up
Fun, science-y fact: not all parts of a tree go dormant at once in the winter. The roots are the last to shield themselves from the cold, making them more susceptible to dipping temperatures, snow and frost.
You can help your tree to protect itself with proper insulation. If you haven’t already, give your tree a fresh layer of composted mulch, which acts like a cozy scarf for your tree.
Mulch will help your tree to stay warm and insulated, regulate moisture. Remember to use the 3-3-3 rule: three inches of mulch in a three-foot ring around the tree, with a three-inch gap around the trunk.
Threat #5: Winter Drought
Quench The Thirst
Was your tree planted in the last two years? If the answer is “yes,” your tree could be thirsty! Make sure to water it regularly until it loses its leaves or until all the leaves have turned brown on species that keep their leaves all winter, like some oaks.
The more mature trees that have been in the ground for longer than two years could also go for a big drink before the winter drought. Just before the ground freezes in late fall, give your tree a thorough watering.
During mild winters where temps are above normal and the ground thaws, give your tree periodic watering. This is really important if you have conifers, which retain their needles and use water readily during winter.
On top of all this winter prep, TruGreen offers a range of science-based tree and shrub services designed to give your trees the nutrients, protection and conditions they need to thrive.