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  • Writer's pictureKassi K.

Winter Tree Care: A Complete Guide

Winter tree care is essential for maintaining the health, vitality, and longevity of your trees during the colder months. Proper winter tree care can help trees withstand harsh weather conditions, prevent damage, and ensure robust growth when spring arrives. Here's a comprehensive guide for winter tree care in Northern Colorado!


Tree in front yard of house during snowstorm

Why Is Winter Tree Care Important?

Winter tree care is so important especially here in Northern Colorado because weather conditions throughout the winter are very cold and dry, and there is potential for heavy snowfall. Properly caring for your trees year-round and doing what you can to prepare them for winter will help your trees endure the environmental stressors of the region.


How To Care for Trees in Winter


1. Late Fall Pruning

It is important to remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches before the first snow of the season. Late fall is an ideal time to carry out this task. Removing compromised branches minimizes the risk of winter breakage during snow and ice events. Branches that break under the weight of snow or due to high winds during the winter season have the potential to cause more damage to the tree, and also pose a threat to any objects or people beneath the tree.


2. Mulching

Apply a layer of mulch around the base of trees, extending to the drip line. This helps insulate the soil, allowing the soil to retain moisture better which plays a large role in protecting the tree's roots from freezing temperatures. This is best done in late fall before snowy weather begins to settle in. It is also recommended to do this with any of your shrubs or perennial plants.


3. Winter Watering

Even though the plants in your landscaping do enter a state of dormancy throughout the winter season, they do still require regular moisture. Healthy, hydrated roots will tolerate Colorado's harsh winter conditions much better than parched roots will. Water your trees deeply before the ground freezes to ensure they go into winter well-hydrated. It is also recommended to water the plants in your landscaping throughout the winter season 1) if there is no snow on the ground and 2) if the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is particularly important in Northern Colorado's dry climate. Learn more about the importance of winter watering in our blog!


4. Protection from Wildlife

One aspect of winter tree care you may not think of is the potential damage caused by wildlife in the area. Depending on the area you live in, it may be a good idea to guard against deer and rabbits by installing tree guards to protect the trunks from deer and rabbit grazing, which can be prevalent in winter when other food sources are scarce.


5. Shielding from Winter Sun

Sunscald happens when the south side of a tree is warmed by the winter sun, prompting cell activity and the moving around of water and nutrients. Then, when cold temperatures set in at night, this can cause the cells to burst, resulting in the bark splitting. Young or thin-barked trees are especially susceptible to this. Protect these trees from winter sunscald by wrapping the trunks with tree wrap.


6. Snow Load Preparation

After snowfall, gently shake off heavy snow from tree branches to prevent breakage. Use a broom or long pole to reach higher branches. Be careful not to beat at branches or use excessive force. This task should be approached very delicately, as carelessly whacking at frozen branches can cause significant damage. Find more information on How To Take Care of Your Trees After Heavy Snowfall here!


7. Avoiding Ice Melt Damage

Be cautious with de-icing salt near trees, as it can damage roots and impact soil health. It is highly recommended to use alternatives like sand or non-salt de-icers if at all possible, as it is nearly impossible to keep such deicers out of the ground and away from trees, shrubs, and other perennial plants entirely.


8. Stake Young Trees

If you have recently planted trees, consider staking them. Trees that have not had at least one full growing season to establish their roots could be easily uprooted by heavy snow and strong winds. So, provide support against winter winds and potential snow loads by staking any young or newly planted trees for at least the first year after planting.


9. Protect Evergreens:

Evergreen trees can easily lose moisture through their needles throughout the cold and dry winter season. While this is not necessary for winter tree care, you may want to consider applying anti-desiccant sprays to evergreen trees or shrubs to help reduce moisture loss.


10. Regular Monitoring

Regardless of the season, frequent inspection of your trees and shrubs is very important. This level of awareness can help catch pest infestations early, will help you stay on top of pruning, will catch other issues before they cause further damage, and the like. Specifically pertaining to winter tree care, we recommend regularly inspecting your trees throughout winter, especially after severe weather events, to identify and address any issues promptly.


11. Professional Tree Inspection

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are unsure of how to proceed or what care would be best for your tree, it is always recommended to consult with the professionals. Consider hiring a certified arborist for a winter inspection. This can even be done yearly to help you maintain happy, healthy trees. A certified arborist will be able to identify potential issues and recommend treatments for a proactive approach, as well as give you suggestions and recommendations for how to adjust your care routines.


Winter Tree Care in Northern Colorado

Properly caring for your trees during the winter is one of the best ways to ensure the health and longevity of your trees despite the challenges of our climate here in Northern Colorado. By focusing on late fall pruning, mulching, winter watering, protecting against wildlife, preventing sunscald, preparing for snow loads, monitoring for pests, avoiding salt damage, consulting professionals, staking young trees, protecting evergreens, and maintaining regular inspections, you can contribute to the resilience and well-being of your trees throughout the winter season. Remember to always adapt your care practices based on the specific needs of your tree species and the unique winter conditions in Northern Colorado, and as always, reach out to us with any of your questions.

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