If you think your backyard trees simply hibernate during winter, think again. The show may seem over once autumn leaves fall, but there’s actually a lot that trees do during winter to get ready for spring.
Take tree growth, for starters: most of the growing points in a tree are protected inside winter jackets called buds. Food reserves are carefully conserved for the coming needs of spring, and water continues to move through a tree until it freezes. Still, trees remain vulnerable during these protective stages, and they need your help to be more efficient and effective now so they can thrive in spring. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) suggests the following six tree-care chores for your winter maintenance list.
- Add a thin layer of composted organic mulch to blanket the soil surface. It’ll protect and conserve tree resources while recycling valuable materials.
- Properly wrap new trees that haven’t yet developed a corky bark and could easily be damaged. Chewing and rubbing by animals and mechanical injury from the environment should all be prevented.
- Remove or correct clearly visible structural faults and deadwood. Make small pruning cuts that minimize exposure of the central heartwood core on branches.
- Perform limited greenwood pruning of declining and poorly placed branches. Your goal is to preserve as many living branches as possible, with only a few selective cuts.
- Fertilize in small quantities, layering needed elements over mulch to provide a healthy soil environment for root growth.
- Water where soils and trees are cool but not frozen, and where there has been little precipitation. Winter droughts require the same action as summer droughts—just be careful not to overwater.
A tree that’s well-tended now will bring you a wonderful show in spring, so invest a little time over the next few months to help yours through this challenging season. For more tree care tips, check out www.treesaregood.org, and find an ISA-certified arborist for bigger projects at www.isa-arbor.com.