Winter Tree Care
Angel Spell, Urban Forester, City of Spokane Parks & Recreation, 509.363.5495
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 9:47 a.m.
Once the brilliant firework show of autumn color has gone and the last leaf has fallen onto the yard, many homeowners think their trees won’t need attention again until spring, but in fact, winter dormancy is the ideal time for some essential tree care! Here are some tips to give your trees the best chance of thriving come spring time:
- Keep watering (for a while, anyway)
Just because it’s not hot outside doesn’t mean your watering duties are over. Water your trees through the fall and winter season until the ground freezes. This is critically important for your newly planted trees that still have a small root mass. Long, slow watering is the best method to deliver hydration down into the root zone. Frequency and duration of watering varies with tree species, soil type, and weather conditions. Check the soil and your tree’s foliage for indicators of too much or too little water.
- Protect your roots
Mulch around your trees with wood chips, bark, leaves, or other organic material. Two to four inches of mulch spread over the top of the root zone will improve your soil structure, preserve soil moisture, insulate against temperature extremes, reduce weed and grass competition, and protect your tree from damage by lawn care equipment. Always keep the mulch layer at least three inches away from the base of the tree trunk.
- Take off the training wheels
Remove any stakes or ties that have been on the tree for more than six months. While stakes and ties can provide some initial stability to the root ball for newly planted trees, studies have clearly shown that trees will establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root tissue without stakes and ties.
You heard right, winter is the best time to prune your trees. Only prune with a clear objective in mind for safety, health, and aesthetics. Avoid stub cutting, flush cutting, and bark ripping, all of which can make your tree more susceptible to pests, disease, and decay.Proper pruning cuts should be made just outside the branch collar so that only branch tissue is removed and the stem tissue is not damaged. Remember, tree wounds should be left uncovered so the tree’s immune system can seal the pruning cut.
- Educate yourself
Learn more about proper tree pruning and basic tree care or hire an ISA Certified Arborist.