The 4 easy tips to prep your trees for colder weather

Small tree in Tacoma--January 2012
Small and large trees can suffer when snow and ice build up on branches.

Believe it or not, your trees need care throughout the winter to maintain their health. Even though urban trees are now going dormant, they require attention throughout the winter to stay strong.

Here are some tips to follow:

  • 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.
  • Although trees can 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.
  • Wrap or guard 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 can be used on trunks of younger trees up to the first branch, using commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards, or any other kind of light-colored material to protect the bark. Remember, it is essential to remove the wrap in the spring after the last frost.
  • If this winter brings long periods of dry weather (2-3 weeks without snow cover), and the ground is not frozen, give your trees a drink. Even though it is winter, trees still transpire (release) water so can become drought stressed. Care in the winter will help trees produce more and healthier buds in the spring.

For more information on tree care and maintenance, for young and mature trees, see Trees Are Good website that offers tree owner information. And you can always get information from a local certified arborist.

For more information on the identification, prevention, and management of winter injuries to plants, please explore the following resources:

Winter Injury of Landscape Plants in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State University)

Protecting Trees and Shrubs Against Winter Damage (University of Minnesota)

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