Set Your Trees up for Spring Success
It’s that time of year again, pumpkins have been decorated, turkeys cooked, and you’ve started your holiday gift shopping. You have a million things on your mind and your landscape is not one of them. Before you dismiss your trees and another Colorado winter moves in, remember that there are a few important tree care needs that can help your trees come back healthy in the spring.
Wrap Your Tree’s Bark to Protect it from Sun Scald
Winter tree wrapping is important to prevent a condition called sun scald, and in Colorado our high elevation make the sun more intense. Protecting your tree’s bark is easy. Wrapping the bark is typically done with a paper tree wrap like Clarks tree wrap, but tree wrapping can be done with plastic, paper, vinyl, or burlap.
So why are trees more susceptible to sun damage in the winter? Shouldn’t summer be the time where trees get damaged easier? In the summer the sun is more intense and the days are longer. So why is sun scald more damaging during the winter months? Sun scald occurs when the sun heats the bark of the trees during the day and the trees bark cools at night. This heating and cooling affect, expands and contracts the bark, causing the bark to split. The tree wrap absorbs the heat of the sun and this maintains prevents the heating of the bark during the day.
If you are like most people there are a lot of trees in the landscape. So which trees need to be winter tree wrapped? Let’s start with the trees that are most important to protect. It is worth the effort to wrap young or newly planted trees because they have soft bark. Then there are certain species of trees that are more susceptible to sun scald. Since, winter tree wrapping is inexpensive I always wrap ash trees, linden trees and honeylocust trees, because they have bark that can split even when they are more mature.
There are certain tree species that don’t need to be winter tree wrapped. Coniferous trees have thicker bark and they are often shaded with needles so they don’t need winter tree wrapping. Trees with white bark like aspen trees and birch trees don’t absorb the heat of the sun and won’t need to be winter tree wrapped. Mature trees that have a furloughed bark typically don’t need winter tree wrapping. If you aren’t sure, just wrap the tree. It is a cheap and easy way to protect your trees for the winter.
Winter Tree Watering
It might come as a surprise, but the four driest months here on the Front Range are November, December, January and February. Sometimes we get lucky and will have two feet of snowfall in the winter months. Some years we might go 3 months without any moisture at all. When natural moisture isn’t in abundance, it is important to water your trees about every 3-4 weeks. The amount of water depends on the size of the tree. A general rule is to calculate the diameter of the truck and then apply 10 gallons of water per inch of caliper. So, if a tree is 6” in diameter, it should be given 60 gallons of water per month. It is best to water your trees when temperatures are above freezing and when there is no snow on the ground.
Winter Tree Pruning
People always ask when is the best time to prune a tree? The answer isn’t cut and dry, but in general winter is the ideal time to prune most trees.
The spread of disease is greatly reduced when trees are in their dormant phase. With certain tree diseases like fire blight that affect fruit trees like apple trees, peach trees, and plum trees, winter is the only time of year we recommended tree pruning. Fire blight is a bacteria that can infest a tree if there is an open wound during the moths when fire blight is active. The fire blight bacteria is dormant in the winter months and will not spread into a tree that is trimmed during the winter. Pruning fruit trees in the winter months allows for trees ample time to heal and seal of the cut limbs.
Winter is also easier for a trained arborist to see which limbs need to be trimmed. Without leaves on the trees, a certified arborist can determine how to prune a tree both for aesthetics and also to clear out dead or damaged limbs. A properly trimmed tree will be more ready for the spring snowstorms that can be so damaging to tree limbs.
To talk more about winter tree care tips, give our team a call at (303) 499-2000 in Boulder or (970) 225-9425 in Fort Collins.