Fall Tree Care
Now that we’ve had our first snowfalls, short though they’ve been, we know that winter is upon us. Most of you don’t realize that the trees we take for granted could use some help to survive the winter.
Although trees appear to be in a state of hibernation, exposure to winter’s tough conditions can cause them major stress. The International Society of Arborists has several recommendations for minimizing stress and it’s not too late for you to follow them.
Rely on mulch. Put composted organic mulch under your tree in the fall or early winter to help retain water and reduce temperature extremes in the soil. A thin layer of mulch will act like a blanket and give the tree’s roots a little extra protection. This mulch could be leaf humus, composted manure, or well-shredded hardwood bark. Two inches is quite sufficient.
Give your trees a drink. Winter droughts require watering as much as summer droughts. If temperatures permit, an occasional watering during the winter on young trees can be a lifesaver. But be sure to water when soil and trees are cool but not frozen, in other words, when we the ground is not yet frozen or when we get a winter thaw.
Prevent mechanical injuries. Branch breakage or splitting can be caused by ice and snow accumulation, temperature swings, or chewing and rubbing by animals. You can prevent problems with young trees by wrapping their trunks in a hard, plastic guard, a metal hardware cloth, or burlap. However, it is important to remember to remove the wraps and guards in the spring to prevent damage when the tree begins to grow. Other damage can be caused when plowing or shoveling snow unless trees have been sited far enough from driveways or sidewalks to make such damage improbable. When spring comes, create a turfless circle, slightly larger than the canopy of the tree. Once you mulch it, you won’t have to worry about damaging the trunk with your mower or weed whip.
Prune your trees. Late fall, when trees are dormant, is a great time to prune. It is easier to see a tree’s structure when there are no leaves on the branches. Proper pruning is vital to the health of trees and plants, in part because it helps relieve stress on trees and keeps them growing. A trained arborist knows that each tree is different and that pruning at the wrong time or the wrong way can injure a tree, making it more susceptible to disease or structural damage.
Plant now. Since autumn is the time of year for colorful, falling leaves, many people do not realize that it is also a prime time to plant new trees. After cooler weather has set in, conditions are perfect for stimulating root growth in new trees. Once roots are established throughout the fall and dormancy of winter, spring showers and summer warmth encourage new top growth. Fall is the optimum time to plant balled and burlapped trees and shrubs. However, bare root plants should be planted later in the season, when they are completely dormant. The ground will probably not freeze until late December or January.
Feel free to call or email me if you would like the name of a reputable, certified arborist.