Help your trees through the cold months

Winter brings frigid temperatures, icy winds and plenty of snow. Just as people battle Mother Nature at this time of the year, so do trees, with one major exception: trees can’t avoid exposure to the elements.

“While your trees seem to be in a state of hibernation in the winter, exposure to the tough conditions can cause them major stress,” said Jim Skiera, executive director of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). “Minimize that stress by helping your trees through the cold months, a little at a time. If you take care of your trees in winter, you’ll be rewarded in the spring.”

• Put composted organic mulch under your tree in the fall or early winter to help retain water and reduce temperature extremes. A thin layer of mulch will act like a blanket and give the tree’s roots a little extra winter protection.

• Give your trees a drink. Winter droughts require watering as much as summer droughts. If temperatures permit, an occasional watering during the winter on young trees can be a lifesaver. But be sure to water only when soil and trees are cool but not frozen.

• Prune your trees. Winter is actually one of the best times to prune because it is easier to see the structure of trees without their leaves. But limit pruning to deadwood and poorly placed branches in order to save as many living branches as possible.

• Prevent mechanical injuries. Branch breakage or splitting can be caused by ice and snow accumulation, or chewing and rubbing by animals. Prevent problems from occurring on young trees by wrapping the base of trees in a hard, plastic guard or a metal hardware cloth. Wrapping trees with burlap or plastic cloth also can prevent temperature damage. Just remember to remove the wraps and guards in the spring to prevent damage when the tree begins to grow.

The ISA is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research around the world. Headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, ISA is dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees.

For more information, contact a local ISA certified arborist or visit www.isa-arbor.com.