We are halfway through fall, and winter is fast approaching in this busy holiday season. Many people tend to forget about tree and garden care in the winter months because smaller plants are not flowering during the winter it leads many people to believe their landscape care can be put on hold until spring. To the contrary, trees still need care during the winter as they are the stars of the winter landscape.
Winter brings its own set of challenges to the health of trees from enduring significant changes in temperature to heavy winds, rain, and even flooding from stormy weather. Here are some ways you can be prepared to care for your trees during the harsh winter months.
Water then Mulch
Lack of water is a big concern for trees in Western Washington during the winter. This is probably surprising to many as we are world famous for our rain. Though we are soggy, it is possible trees could be dying of thirst in our yards. In this area, there is glacial till, a hard layer of soil not far beneath the topsoil on the surface. The soil is so hard it sheds water away like granite rock and when the ground freezes the topsoil layer will do the same. The best plan to prevent thirsty trees is heavy watering in the late summer and fall before heavy rains begin and follow up with mulch. Mulch helps to hold in moisture, even if you missed a heavy watering season, it is never too late to mulch.
The best mulching method is to use an organic mulch spread only two inches deep as far out around the tree as you can afford. You want to try and spread the mulch all the way out to the natural drip line in the ground (the farthest reach of the longest branches) and be careful not to cover up the flare of the root crown near the base of the trunk.
During colder months evergreen trees, which we think should be “forever green” year-round can take on brown or dark purple tones. This can happen from the inside out as well as the outside in. If you have an evergreen tree that is turning colors on the inside near the trunk this is normal, especially for Cedar species. It is an annual shedding of needles. If your tree is browning at the outer edges of the branches you will want to call a tree care professional to diagnose the problem.
With winter pruning, less is more for evergreen trees especially firs. Stick to pruning only crossing or weak branches. This is, however, a very good time for pruning dormant deciduous trees, especially fruit trees as it is easier to see what you are doing and there is less debris to deal with. Of course, any dead branches on any type of tree should be removed as soon as they are discovered.
If you are concerned that a tree may be close to falling after a storm you can look for the warning signs of the top of the tree suddenly leaning and lose ground at the base. A tree professional of course can come and assess your trees both pre and post-storm to determine if it is in danger of falling or if your tree is in need of pruning.
If you are unsure of the exact care your trees need it is a good idea to call a tree care company. They can help you to determine the health and any needed care of each tree in your yard.