In November, our traditional reminder highlights the benefits of winter pruning during the dormant season. This practice has historically contributed to the overall health and longevity of trees. However, in light of the current severe drought conditions, we'd like to shift your focus to a critical aspect of tree care. This year's prolonged drought poses challenges for tree health, requiring special attention even in the winter months. While many recommendations for drought-stressed trees remain consistent throughout the year, it's crucial to consider specific factors during the winter season.
Watering: On mild winter days when the ground isn't frozen, water your trees thoroughly. Deep watering encourages root growth and helps trees store moisture. Even when temperatures are chilly, the trees will benefit from this added moisture.
Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your trees to help conserve soil moisture and regulate soil temperature. Winter is a great time to spread mulch. It’s not excruciatingly hot, so the work is not as taxing.
Fire Danger: Now is not the time to burn leaf piles or have the backyard bonfire. Unfortunately, the risk is too great currently for the flames to catch the dry material ready to burn in your yard. Even if you keep sticks and leaves away from the area, there is still the opportunity for errant sparks to be carried by wind to light additional sources.
Leave the Leaves: Our trees naturally make food for themselves. Crazy, right? The leaves fall and decompose and provide extremely valuable nutrients that feed our trees. Grass is also dormant this time of year, so why not leave the leaves to naturally get rid of themselves instead of raking. Less work for you, more food for your trees.
Pruning: Now is the time to prune your trees. As your trees enter the dormant season, it is easier for them to use energy toward compartmentalizing the wounds created by pruning cuts than it is when they are using that energy for growth and food production.
Heaving: Drought-stressed trees can be more susceptible to disease and insect infestation. If trees have experienced prolonged stress, they may not be able to withstand heavy rains or ice storms, so it’s important to notice any leaning that may occur or any roots that are lifted out of the ground (heaving), especially after a weather event.
Choose the Right Trees: The dormant season is a great time to plant new trees, despite the drought conditions. Plant drought-resistant tree species that are better suited to your region's winter conditions. Water newly planted trees on a weekly basis when conditions are favorable.
Call your arborist: If you're unsure about how to care for your trees during winter, consult a certified arborist who can evaluate their condition and provide guidance.