When the cold keeps you inside, remember your trees are still outside. They are much hardier than we are. They cannot run away from their troubles. Trees and shrubs that grow in this area have the ability to “Hibernate”. The metabolism of the tree slows down and chemical changes take place in the tree sap to allow the tree to withstand the severe cold temperatures. Research shows the tree’s roots remain active even in frozen soils. This is why we need to make sure the soil is moist in the fall. On rare occasions there can be drought conditions in the winter if there is no rain or snow for extended periods of time. Proper mulching and irrigation in the fall, if needed, can reduce the chance of this occurring.
Winter snow and ice storms can cause damage when large amounts of ice or snow accumulate on branches causing an overload on the branch, resulting in branch and or tree failure under the added weight. Evergreens are more susceptible to this problem because the foliage remains on the tree, increasing the surface area for ice and snow to adhere to and accumulate on the branches. Some times it may be necessary to clear some of the snow off of these trees. Small trees are simple enough to clear off. Larger trees may not be practical or safe to attempt clearing the snow off the branches. Beware of hidden hazards like power lines, broken, loose limbs and large clumps of snow/ice. Usually the snow/ice will blow or evaporate off the trees in several days with little to no permanent damage.
Pruning trees during the winter months, approximately mid November to mid March has benefits over pruning in the summer months:
- The pests and pathogens are dormant too.
- A deciduous tree’s structure is more visible.
- Pruning cuts made on live branches will be less attractive to pests in the spring.
- The cuts will have a full growing season to form the callus tissues, which will seal over the wound.
- Herbaceous plants in the yard are dormant and will not be damaged during pruning operations.
- Proper pruning decreases potential damage from violent spring storms.
- Proper pruning will increase overall tree health and vigor.