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Preparing your trees for winter


Published: 02/22/2013

When autumn’s cooler weather approaches,maintenance to the home is just the beginning of preparations

 for the colder weather to come. Our trees need care to prepare as well.


“While your trees seem to be in a state of hibernation in the winter, exposure to the tough conditions can cause

them major stress,” says Jim Skiera, executive director of the International Societyof Arboriculture (ISA).

“Minimize stress by helping your trees through the cold months, a little at a time. If you take care of your trees in

the winter, you'll be rewarded in the spring.”


ISA recommends the following tips for preparing trees for colder weather:


Rely on mulch. Put composted mulch under your tree in the fall or early winter to help retain water and

reduce temperature extremes in the soil.


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. Only water when the soil

is cool but not frozen.


Fertilize. Fertilizing a tree can improve growth; however, if fertilizer is not applied wisely, it may not beneļ¬t

the tree at all. Mature trees making satisfactory growth may not require fertilization. When considering

supplemental fertilizer, it is important to know what nutrients are needed, and when and how they should

be applied. The proper selection and use of fertilizer is a somewhat complex process.


When dealing with a mature tree, it is worth the time and investment to have the soil tested for nutrient content.

Any arborist can arrange to have your soil tested and can give advice on application rates, timing, and the best

blend of fertilizer for each of your trees. Prevent mechanical injuries. Branch breakage or splitting can be caused

by ice and snow accumulation or chewing and rubbing by animals.


You may prevent problems with young trees by wrapping their base in a hard, plastic guard or a metal

hardware cloth. Wrapping trees with burlap or plastic cloth also can prevent temperature damage. Remember

to remove the wraps in the spring to prevent damage when the tree begins to grow.


Prune your trees. Fall is a good time to prune your trees. Not only are trees dormant in the colder months,

 but it is also 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 and keeps

 them growing,” says Skiera.


Plant now. Many people do not realize that autumn is 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, all bare root plants should be planted

later in the season, when they are completely dormant.  


For more information on fall and winter tree care, or to find an ISA Certified Arborist, visit


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