Trees, like people, need preparation and protection for the winter months. Like we wear hats and gloves and get flu shots, trees need a little more love before Father Winter comes to test them.
In the late fall and early winter of each year, follow the Three P’s of tree winterization to make sure your trees not only survive but thrive during the harsh Indiana winter.
Before the snow starts to stick, prepare your tree for the frigid months ahead. Add a thin layer (a little less than 2 inches) or organic mulch from the base of the trunk to the end of the drip line. Make sure not to pile it up at the base of the trunk.
Mulch insulates the ground surrounding the root system, helping the tree survive extremely low temperatures and preventing water loss. Try to mulch after the ground has frozen to dissuaded mice from using it as a nest.
Another step of preparing trees for winter is cabling and bracing trees. Improper pruning, disease, and storm damage can leave trees weak and hazardous to people and property. Heavy ice and snow can cause weak branches to break and cause damage.
Early winter is a great time prune a tree. The canopy is bare and problems branches are more easily detected. In the tree’s dormant season, fungi, insects, and disease-causing organisms are also dormant, making the open pruning wounds less susceptible for infection and infestation.
For tips on how to prune your tree without killing it, read this.
Your tree’s bark (it’s number one line of defense) becomes food for mice, voles, and rabbits as other food sources become scarce. Additionally, the daily freeze-thaw cycle of winter days can cause bark cells to rupture and crack, a condition known as sunscald.
Wrapping your trees is like bundling up a kid, except you only have to do it once per winter. Tree wrap is especially important for newly planted trees but also many soft-barked trees.
Tree wrap is usually made of cloth, paper, plastic or a combination. Starting from the bottom of the trunk, wrap up to the lowest branches making sure to overlap the layers for a snug fit. Take the wrap off when spring arrives.
The Bottom Line
You may think trees will just “ride it out” during the winter or “bounce back” in the spring. But sometimes they need a little help. Following the Three P’s of Winter Tree Maintenance, can help your trees live on happily and healthily, able to provide all we need of them season after season.