Each year is divided into four seasons… winter, spring, summer, and fall. Plants and trees experience life cycles through these seasons. For human beings, life cycles occur every day. We require a certain amount of rest each day (we call it sleep) to function the following day. The amount and quality of our rest helps to determine how healthy and productive we are.
Most trees “sleep” each winter (we call it their dormancy period). The amount and quality of their rest also determines how healthy and productive they are! Let’s take a few minutes to talk about preparing for winter and making this dormancy period the best it can be for your plants and trees.
Branches are more vulnerable to breakage during the winter. Particularly for deciduous trees, the wood hardens and becomes somewhat more brittle and susceptible to wind damage. Then there is the problem of ice and snow accumulation which affects both deciduous trees and evergreens alike.
What to do:
The key to minimizing branch breakage lies in good fall tree maintenance, particularly pruning. Pruning weak and vulnerable branches and removing one limb of a pair sharing a deep “V” crotch can make the entire tree less susceptible.
At times during the winter, particularly for evergreens, drying out can be a real problem. Winter drought occurs when a tree loses more water than it can absorb from frozen ground and is especially acute during the early spring when the ground remains frozen while the spring sun begins warming the rest of the tree. Windy conditions can also worsen the problem.
What to do:
While there is no sure fire solution to winter drought, you may be able to control the problem by laying down a thick layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree in late fall before winter’s onset. The mulch can help to slow moisture loss and runoff while acting as a temperature buffer for the roots.