Tree care tips for the Winter

Dec 22, 2017

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Trees

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Winter is here, but there’s still some tree care you can do!

tree care

It may not snow in Sacramento like this, but snow isn’t necessary for winter to threaten your trees.

You’ve probably felt the change in the weather in California over the last several months. While Southern California has entered an unseasonably warm December, with disastrous results, other parts of the state are seeing cooler temperatures. Winter is here, and that means a new set of challenges to our trees. However, the winter months are also an excellent time to get some important tree care accomplished.

In a sense, the winter can be a test of how much effort has gone into maintaining and protecting your landscape. We’ve compiled a set of helpful tree care tips and practices in this blog. With the right attention, your trees can come through the winter in decent shape. Hopefully, by the end of this article you’ll have a better understanding of how to prepare for next year!

Preparing for winter

There are some excellent pre-winter tree care preparations you can accomplish every year. It doesn’t necessarily require professional assistance, either!

  • Tree Inspections – Pay attention to signs of trouble. If you’re seeing obvious damage to leaves or branches, that could be a sign of a larger problem. A qualified arborist can make a proper assessment.
  • Hold off on pruning before winter – While it is perfectly acceptable to prune trees throughout the year, there’s a danger to pruning before winter. New growth that springs up from pruned branches can be vulnerable to wintry weather, and that can lead to more considerable damage to the rest of the tree.
  • Fertilize your trees properly – There are fall fertilizers that promote root growth over leaf growth. It’s recommended you do some research for this tree care process. Consider getting an arborist to assess your soil and your trees. Excessive fertilization can be more harmful!
  • Set a layer of mulch around your trees – Mulch can control temperatures around your trees during the winter, and moderate moisture loss. However, it’s important to leave a space between the tree trunk and your mulch to discourage rodents.

Pruning during the winter

The dormant months of winter is an appropriate time to get extensive pruning maintenance done. If your trees lose their leaves in the lead up to winter, you’ll get a good look at problem branches, and can better plan the pruning cuts.

Of course, some tree care requires the help of professionals. It’s best to consider getting a professional tree service to handle pruning on larger trees. They can reach the branches you can’t, and have access to equipment that you will not.

Additionally, improper pruning can lead to extensive tree care procedures in the future. Trying to save a tree damaged by bad pruning is an expense on top of an expense. Depending on the damage, there may even be no saving the tree.

Trees can generally heal after a frost cracks, even ones of this length. However, it helps to pay attention to the damage for any signs of disease or pests.

Cold Stress: a major tree care challenge

Heat stress is a major concern for trees in California, as evidenced by our multi-year droughts, and the toll they’ve taken on our forests. You would not think that cold stress is a concern outside of higher elevations, but it is. Even in the Sacramento Valley, sudden dips into freezing temperature can cause cold stress damage to a tree. When these frost cracks happen, it can sound like a rifle being fired at a distance.

Frost cracks can be thought of as a long, open wound on the tree. This damage can serve as an invasion point for bacteria, disease, mold, and insect pests. There are cold stress kits you can purchase from a variety of tree care vendors to help treat existing cold stress damage. However, there’s little in the way of prevention for this kind of harm. If trees on your property sustain cold stress damage, you will need to pay attention to them for the future. It could be a sign of impending tree failure.

Tree care is a year around process!

Ultimately, if you want your trees to thrive after winter passes, you must provide them regular care and maintenance throughout the year. While it is true that established trees may not need too much attention, even mature trees can benefit from proper care practices. If you’re attentive to the trees on your property, even if that means hiring someone to do it, you can protect your trees against the winters.

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