The first and most common threat is good, old-fashioned windburn. When it gets dry and cold out, the moisture inside the tree evaporates and the tissue within dries out, giving off a dead looking, brownish appearance. The best way to combat windburn is to make sure you’re watering your trees regularly before the ground freezes. That way, the tree will have more water at its disposal. If you don’t – tissues can get damaged and you run the risk of harming branches, root structures and sections of the bark of the tree. Now this does come with a caveat. While regular watering can help combat things like windburn, too much water can be hazardous to your tree’s health. Why and how is something that we’ll explain in a little bit.
Cold injury and physical damage is just as common as windburn and can be twice as dangerous to the overall health of your tree. This type of cold stress most commonly manifests itself in two forms – frozen roots and physical rupture.
Rupture occurs when extremely cold temperatures cause the moisture inside of a tree to freeze. When it does, it can rupture cells and cause tearing along the inner tissue and bark of the tree. This can form noticeable gashes or breaks on a tree’s surface – leaving the tree susceptible to all sorts of insects, pests and fungi once warmer seasons arrive. Ruptures in and of themselves are not fatal for a tree – but they can invite lots of infections, pests and insects that could be. Keeping an eye on – and treating these ruptures immediately is important.
Surface roots should also be observed and are the second type of serious cold injury you could encounter. This happens when the roots that rest above the surface of the soil freeze due to there being too much moisture inside the tree (remember what we said about being careful of watering a tree too much). This frozen section(s) of roots can then block vital nutrients and minerals from getting into the circulatory system of the tree. This can lead to branches breaking, sections of the tree dying or becoming disfigured among other things.
The final sign of winter damage you’ll frequently observe is salt damage. In the winter, plows are out and spraying both salt and sand every which way. This can have an adverse affect on many plants and trees largely because of the sheer amount of salt sulfur and mix getting into the soil. Trees that are located along the tree belt can be at specific risk. Melting snow can help wash a lot of the salt away – but much of it unfortunately leaks into the soil and can cause increased evaporation – that as we’ve explained earlier – can lead to branch breaks, malformation and the like.
What you can do to prepare:
All this being said, it’s important to understand that no matter what you do there is always going to be much about a tree’s life that can be hard to control – winter damage being one of those things. Damage will occur. It’s just part of nature. All that taken into account – there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage – or treat these issues once they pop up.
- If you’re adding trees, only buy the kinds that are used to your zone. If you purchase trees from places with a more mild climate, you’ll likely experience more significant issues with cold stress.
- Prune only after your trees are dormant. This prevents unhealthy growth.
- Mulch can be an outstanding combatant against root freezing and the like because it can help moderate temperature fluctuations and moisture loss. As always – leave a little space between the trees and the mulch itself!
- Always maintain your tree throughout the year. Strong trees always have a better go of things than those that aren’t.
The final option for you to consider is a specific kind of fertilizer but as always – we recommend that you call a professional first before applying it. Stay warm and keep your trees happy and healthy!