A little tree care today can prevent a lot of winter damage later on

December 2007Winter weather can mean frigid temperatures, icy winds, and snow in many parts of Washington State. While we can choose to stay inside or bundle up and venture forth, trees don’t have that option; they withstand the elements as best they can. You can help your trees during this challenging time of year by taking a few steps now.

  1. Put three to four inches of composted organic mulch under your tree in the fall or early winter to help retain water and reduce its exposure to temperature extremes. A layer of mulch out to the drip line of the branches (at least 4 to 5 feet in diameter) will act like a blanket and give tree roots a little extra winter protection. (Leave a small opening around the trunk to prevent excess moisture build-up.)
  2. 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.
  3. Prune your trees. Winter is one of the best times to prune because it is easier to see the structure of the trees without their leaves. Limit pruning to deadwood and poorly placed branches so you can save as many living branches as possible. Learn how to prune correctly by taking a pruning class, reading a book, or visiting a website.
  4. Prevent injuries. Shake heavy snow or ice from young trees so that ice and snow accumulation does not break or split branches. Wrapping the base of trees in a hard, plastic guard or metal hardware cloth (metal flashing) if animal damage is a problem. Wrapping tree trunks 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 again.

To get the best advice about tree care, contact a local certified arborist. For more information about trees and where to find expert help, visit the website of the national Arbor Day Foundation.

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