Keep Your Trees Safe From the Elements

2 December 2014 by

Winter may not seem like the best time to be outside, but, now is a great time tackle projects in your yard, especially when it comes to your trees. So if your trees have broken branches or dead wood, put on your woolies and head outside.

Consulting Arborist Michael Pavlis, owner of Ossabaw Consulting, LLC., says winter is the best time for do-it-yourselfers to trim and prune their trees. “Trees are dormant now,” he said, and “winter allows trees to create wounds to slow anything from entering.

“Pathogens, fungus and insects are dead. Winter gives the tree time to recognize and respond to any missing branches.”

In other words, if you take care of your trees now, they’ll be ready to thrive this spring.

Believe it or not, winter is actually the perfect time to plant many trees. Planting trees in winter gives them time to establish in the ground and lessens the stress of being moved. To make sure you plant your trees properly, contact a professional or an agent from your local agriculture university extension. Your trees aren’t going to benefit if you plant them wrong, said Pavlis.

To protect your trees throughout the winter, apply two to four inches of shredded, hard-wood mulch around the base to help insulate the soil. “Don’t exceed two to four inches because it smothers the roots and prevents water and air from circulating.”

Pavlis said mulch protects the soil from getting too cold. But don’t use colored mulch, he said, because it takes longer to break down.

Additionally, don’t let the mulch touch any bark on your trees to help prevent decay and disease from entering the tree. Make your mulch look like a donut, Pavlis said.

As spring approaches, take soil tests to determine whether there are nutrient deficiencies in your soil. Pavlis suggests taking your soil sample right before spring, close to the last freeze date and before leaves develop.

Your agriculture university can test your soil samples for you, for a fee, and point you in the direction of an extension agent who can help you understand your trees, plants and nutrient needs. Once you get the results of your samples, apply nutrients as soon as possible.

Before you do any yard work, make sure your ground is thawed and the soil temperature is at least in the 30s. Select a relatively warm winter day. Remember, don’t do any tree trimming before first consulting arborist guidelines. And if you projects are really big, or if you’re planning to remove a tree, hire a professional.

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