4 tips to prepare your trees for winter

pink dogwood covered in ice
This pink dogwood is covered in ice. Will it survive?

Believe it or not, your trees need care throughout the winter to maintain their health.

Even though urban trees are now going into dormancy, they require attention throughout the winter to stay strong.

Here are 4 tips to follow:

  • Wrap the trunk. Some recently planted, thin-barked trees like honey locust, ash, maple and linden, are susceptible to bark-damaging sunscald and frost cracks when temperatures fluctuate in fall and winter. Wrap trunks of younger trees up to the first branches using commercial tree wrap to protect the bark. Remember to take the wrap off once weather warms in the spring.

  • Use mulch. Two to four inches of wood chips, bark, or other organic mulch spread over the root system of the tree will help reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption, and insulate against temperature extremes. To prevent rodent damage and the possibility of rot, make sure that mulch does not rest against the trunk of the tree. Consider layering leaves around the base of each tree as natural mulch.
  • Prune, but not too early and not too late. Although trees can also be pruned in the summer during active growth, late winter is often a favorite time for pruning. Remove dead branches and improve its form, but make sure you are doing it correctly. Always prune at the branch collar – the point where a branch joins a larger one – and don’t remove any branches without good reason. Follow this link to find out more about pruning trees.
  • Give them a drink. Water trees throughout the dripline of the tree; that is the area from just outside the trunk to the outer edge of the longest branches. Trees need about 10 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter. Long, slow watering will assure that water reaches down into the root zone.

If this winter brings long periods of dry weather (2-3 weeks without snow cover), and the ground is not frozen, it is a good idea to give your trees some water. Your care for them will provide benefits for years to come.

If you have any questions or want more information on urban tree care, contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.