Preparing Your Trees For Winter
Trees are tough plants, but winter can take a toll on their structure and health. This storm damage could lead to weakened integrity, falling branches, and a lot of property damage in the future. While a little snow and ice and can make for beautiful, pastoral scenes, it can add a lot of stress.
Examine your trees now, before the cold makes it a very unpleasant chore. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, energy, and money, not to mention maybe even saving the life of your tree!
For most trees, this won’t be their first snowfall, so they’ll be prepared. Trees naturally take care of a lot of the work for you, because as the daylight gets shorter, trees shut down their glucose production (their main source of food), and prepare to go into a state of hibernation. During this dormancy, they feed off of stored starches, and every process from food production to growth and metabolism slows right down.
Those stored-up starches not only feed the trees during a period when they have no leaves to convert glucose – they keep the tree from freezing! You know what happens when water freezes: it expands. But water with a mix of glucose has a lower freezing point, so when the temperature dips, the tree’s cells won’t expand and explode. They also have an extra “antifreeze” protein that they can make as the temperature falls too much, and this protein binds to ice crystals to prevent their growth. It’s pretty amazing!
None of this, however, can truly prevent most of the structural damage you often see after an ice storm. This is where you come in!
Preventing Ice and Snow Damage
Winter brings high, cold winds and a lot of precipitation, and this can bend and break the branches causing harm to both the tree and your property. The ice and snow can also weigh heavily on limbs as it accumulates, and if the tree isn’t prepared to take on this extra weight, it can cause damage.
Before the weather gets too cold for us humans, the best solution is a little preemptive pruning. This can take care of weak, diseased, or broken limbs before they become major tree problems. Strong, healthy branches in the upper crown of the tree can be braced and cabled with strong steel, giving them a little extra support if the elements become too much.
If there’s a lot of ice accumulation on a tree, don’t shake it! Ice makes the branches brittle and frail, making them likely to fall on your head. Just let the ice melt properly, and hopefully, you took care of the weaker branches in the fall!
Newly Planted Trees
If you have a young tree or shrub on your property, you need to take extra care before the winter season, as they are now at their most vulnerable! You can wrap the trunks of your trees with tree wrap paper to prevent “sunscald”, a problem that happens when the sun thaws the trunk during the day and the cold air refreezes it at night, causing cells to rupture and bark to crack open. New coniferous trees should be wrapped in cloth or strong nylon string, but these have to be removed as soon as spring begins to prevent damage to the limbs.
Since the trees are new, you can influence how they’ll grow. Prune them properly to eliminate the potential for diverging trunks or branches that might weaken the whole tree as it grows. Encourage root growth in autumn by mulching around their base; this will make them stronger come the winter winds and help prevent root injury from extreme temperatures.
If you need to protect your trees before the snow sets in, give us a call! We can help you brace for winter so the season is safe for both you and your trees.