Winter tree tips

Red oak tree
This handsome red oak tree is well suited for it location along a residential street in Snoqualmie. Photo: DNR

It’s cold and flu season and a time to take especially good care of ourselves. A doctor may ask about your eating, sleeping and exercise habits, or question you about preventative care measures, such as flu shots or vitamins. Proactive care makes us less susceptible to bugs and other circumstances that make us sick.

So what about your trees? Winter is challenging for trees as well, and the same advice applies to ensure that they are healthy and can withstand the stresses of the season. Here are some simple tips for preventative care of your trees to boost their health and decrease susceptibility to insects and diseases, storms, and winter damage.

  • Watering. Our summers have been hotter and drier than normal, resulting in chronic drought stress for many landscape trees. Watering can be just as effective in the winter as it is in the summer. If the ground isn’t frozen then trees will still benefit from winter watering. The Tri-Cities’ Washington State University Extension Horticulturalist, Marianne Ophardt offers this helpful winter watering advice.
  • Mulching. Mulching is perhaps one the best, most cost-effective preventative treatments for trees. Mulch helps regulate soil temperatures, retain soil moisture, reduce soil compaction, reduce competition from other plants, improve soil structure and fertility, and is a physical barrier that discourages damage from lawn maintenance equipment. Best of all it is cheap, especially if you’re mulching with recycled wood chips. Many tree service providers are happy to deliver loads of wood chips to your yard for free. Read more about mulch from the Morton Arboretum.
  • Structural Pruning.  A little light pruning when your tree is young can go a long way toward preventing the development of structural defects and mitigating future storm damage. It’s like teaching your tree to behave properly when it’s little so it can grow up to be a fine, upstanding adult–but you need to know what limbs to prune and why. Read more about structural pruning from the Barlett Research Lab.
  • Regular Inspections by a Professional. Think about this like getting a check-up from your doctor. Having an ISA Certified Arborist or other qualified tree professional inspect your trees on a 3-5 basis, and after storms, can alert you to specific tree problems or potential issues of concern. It is easier, safer and less expensive to deal with tree-related problems before the next storm rolls through. Learn more about hiring an arborist.

The old adage says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We hold this to be true for our own well-being, so let’s extend the same courtesy to our trees.

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