Fall is a time of change - and a great time for planting.
Senescence tells a tree to close down for the coming winter. As part of this process trees become dormant and their metabolism, as well as photosynthesis, slows down, allowing them to store nutrients for spring.
Despite this dormancy, tree roots will continue to grow until soil temperature reaches about 36 degrees. Throughout winter, trees will continue to respire and take in water and nutrients, but they must be winterized and protected. Here are some tips to get your trees ready for the winter:
It is critical to remove dead, diseased and overlapping branches. Pruning helps form and strengthen trees, encourages new growth in spring, minimizes future storm damage, and protects against overwintering disease and insects.
Mulching & Root Care
Mulch manages the fluctuation of temperatures and moisture, especially in young trees. You can use wood chips or aged bark mulch, which contains nearly 90% pure bark and stays in place well, even on steep applications. If roots are poorly drained or the surrounding soil is compacted, aerate the roots to allow them to take in more oxygen to help them grow. Additionally, root pruning can stimulate root growth by loosening soil and roots around the surface of the root ball, working out tangles and spreading the roots, preventing them from strangling the tree.
Just like people need nourishment, trees need food and water to grow. When essential nutrients are lacking in the soil, trees are not able to reach their full potential, may experiences a shorter life span, and are much more susceptible to damage from disease and insects. A good rule of thumb is to use approximately 1 pound of nitrogen per each 500 square feet of root zone.
Proper placement of evergreens in the landscape is crucial. Rhodies and azaleas should not typically be planted on the south or west side of a building and kept out of areas of high wind. It’s also important to ensure they’re watered well throughout the growing season so they’re protected from drying out during the winter months. Keep your evergreens healthy and protected by using an anti-tranpirant spray, such as Wilt-Pruf, as well as burlap screens.
Snow and Ice Damage
Some types of trees and plants are highly susceptible to snow and ice damage. To prevent damage during the winter months, wrap trees together with twine, tie leaders with stockings, cloth or strips of carpet, and properly prune to remove multiple leaders and weak branches. Placement of trees is critical and they should be kept away from walks and roadways that will be salted heavily in the winter. Use salt tolerant species, including:
- Hedge Maple
- Celebration Maple
- Russian Olive
- Black Gum
- Mountain Ash
- Bald Cypress
Protection from Sun Scald and Frost Cracks
Sun scald is the freezing of bark following high temperatures in the winter. It causes elongated, sunken and dried areas of dead bark mainly on the south side of trees and may result in permanent visible damage to bark. Frost cracks can also be an issue during the winter. This occurs when the sun heats the sap and causes it to flow through the trunk. The sap refreezes when the temperatures drop at night time, expands, and causes cracks the bark, which can provide an entry point for pathogens. A Tree Wrap Trunk protector is a great way to keep this from happening.
Animals can cause great damage to your plants and trees, including mice, rabbits, rodents and deer. Fortunately you can mitigate this damage by using protective coverings such as hardware cloth placed both above and below ground, as well as plastic guards. Protecting trees and plants from deer can be more difficult, but there are some naturally deer-resistant plants available, including:
- Blue Spruce
- Norway Spruce
- Butterfly Bush
- Trumpet Vine
- St. Johnswort
- Cherry Laurel
- Russian Olive
If you do have trees and plants that deer are attracted to, you can try deer repellant, such as dried blood. You can also wrap the trees or plants, or use netting that allows them to breathe easily.