Trees go into a state of dormancy during the winter months. This means that they stop growing and their leaves fall off. However, that doesn’t mean that trees don’t need to be cared for during this time. The cold weather and lack of sunlight can cause damage to your trees and prevent them from growing properly in the spring. The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your trees during the winter months!
Always make sure your trees are getting water, especially since California often does not get rain until much later in the year. Though your trees need less water than during the growing season, they still need enough to prevent them from drying out and losing valuable nutrients.
Adding mulch around the base of the tree helps to insulate the roots and prevent them from freezing. In late fall to early winter, add a thin layer (no more than 2 inches) of mulch beneath your tree’s drip line. Mulch insulates soil and tree roots against temperature extremes and slows water loss from soil. Don’t pile mulch directly against the tree trunk and check back frequently to make sure rodents don’t take up residence!
Fall and winter are the best times to prune trees. Take advantage of the trees’ dormant season and prune any dead or damaged branches. Pruning during dormancy can also prevent disease spread, since disease organisms are also dormant. You can find a complete guide to tree pruning HERE.
Aerate the soil near your tree if it’s compacted or waterlogged in any way. Aerating the soil helps to prevent root suffocation and will promote healthier growth in the coming months.
When winter sun thaws a tree trunk by day and cold night air freezes it, bark cells can rupture, creating cracks in the trunk. This condition is called sunscald. To protect trees, cover trunks with crepe paper tree wrap. Working from the bottom, wrap the trunk, overlapping layers by one-third. Stop wrapping just above lowest branches. Remove the wrap in spring. You can also paint the tree trunk white or wrap it with a white plastic rabbit guard. Sunscald occurs most often on trees planted on west or south sides of buildings.
Rabbits and other rodents love to gnaw the bark on young trees. If chewing damage occurs halfway around the trunk, the tree likely won’t survive. To protect your trees, block rodents by wrapping trunks with plastic tree guards, starting at the bottom and working upward. You can also cage trunks with chicken wire to prevent deer from rubbing. Once bark matures and develops fissures, the small critters usually stop chewing. Don’t forget to remove the wrap in spring!
Need help from a Tree Care Professional?
If you are concerned about keeping your trees healthy in the winter months, contact the certified arborists at Tree Care Incorporated. We are committed to keeping your trees healthy all year.