Trees are beautiful additions to any landscape, and each one tells an individual story of what it has survived. The health and color of a tree’s foliage, the condition of its bark, and the width of its growth ring all hold the mysteries of the life that the tree has lived. Vibrant trees add character to your yard.
To ensure that your trees stay healthy and strong year after year, they require proper maintenance. Part of adequate tree care includes preparing them for winter as this is when they are the most vulnerable to damage through cold temperatures and severe weather. Here are six tips to keep your trees in top shape.
1) Clean Up Canopy and Foliage
Start by inspecting each tree’s canopy, looking for the dead, damaged, or loosely hanging branches. Do some light pruning to remove dead or broken limbs, and eliminate ivy or other vines that add undue weight to more tenuous branches. This is particularly important for freshly planted and younger trees, as any excess weight can snap or damage growing limbs.
Tree canopies that are covered with ivy or clematis may have a harder time withstanding the weight and pressure of additional wind or snow. Removal of all extra weight on branches and canopy is important to the health of your trees. You can take help from professionals such as a north shore arborist.
2) Maintain Trunk and Bark
Now thoroughly inspect the trunk and bark on each tree. Trees that have structural defects have a higher probability of incurring additional or more severe damage from snow, ice, or heavy winds. Look for the following:
– Deadwood: dead segments of the trunk or limbs will be more brittle and less able to resist wind. This can become especially dangerous if it is a larger limb close to your house.
– Decay: hollow areas of a tree can mean that the tree is more prone to failure, but limited decay does not necessarily mean the tree is hazardous. Trees typically decay from within, which is how a cavity form.
Despite this process, new wood is constantly being added to the outside of the tree as it grows. If the outer portion appears structurally sound, the tree may be relatively safe. It is important to have significantly decaying areas evaluated by a trained arborist.
– Cracks: look for deep splits in the tree extending through the bark, exposing the wood. This type of damage is indicative of potential branch or tree failure.
3) Check Root System
Survey the root system of each tree. Trees with damaged or significantly exposed roots are more likely to fall in severe wind storms. If over half of your tree’s roots have been crushed or cut, if it is starting to lean, or if the soil appears to be forced up around the base of the tree on the opposite side of the lean, it is advisable to have your tree professionally evaluated to ensure its safety.
Also, look for decay or fungus growing in the base of the tree or the buttress roots. Excavating around the base of the tree can help keep the healthy roots intact.
Cover the soil around the base of your trees with a protective layer of mulch. This is particularly important for younger or recently planted trees that are more susceptible to root damage in severe weather. Place a layer of mulch about 4 to 8 inches around the base of the tree without allowing it to touch its trunk. Spread the mulch at least 2 feet away from the trunk.
A thick layer of mulch, wood chips, hay, or even tree bark can work to insulate and protect the roots against damage caused by the ground thawing and refreezing. Aside from protecting soil from frost, mulch will help provide moisture to your tree’s roots by retaining water.
5) Wrap Young Trees
Young trees, especially fruit trees, should be wrapped for the winter. This will protect against the bark splitting that can happen during periods of temperature fluctuations. These vertical cracks occur when bark separates from the wood of the tree, eventually resulting in decay.
To wrap your trees, use tree wrap fabric, burlap, or any other sturdy fabric that will survive the winter. Start with the bottom portion of the tree, wrapping toward just below the first branches.
6) Tie Branches
Tie center branches together loosely with twine. This is especially helpful for evergreen trees that have foliage year-round as they are more susceptible to damage from holding up snow and ice. Examples of evergreen species include the blue story or dwarf palmetto, loblolly pine, and the Yaupon holly. Tying branches will help prevent splitting and breaking during winter storms.
Consult a Tree Care Specialist:
Trees are an integral component of any well-balanced landscape design, adding variety and beauty to your yard. To keep your trees healthy, be sure to prepare your trees for severe winter weather by pruning them, checking them for cracks and damage, and mulching around the base. For more information on how to best winterize your trees, or if you need help trimming decaying limbs, contact an ISA certified arborist.