An overwatered tree in winter? We get how that could seem confusing. But it happens! Think about it—snow and ice melt into water, and that water is absorbed by the roots of your tree. Your tree is getting watered more with every storm that happens, whether it is snow, ice, or rain.
Overwatering your tree is bad for many reasons. It can put the tree in danger of pest invasion. It also can cause the roots to rot. However, if the roots of a tree get too dry, this can do damage as well. If a tree goes through winter with dry roots, it can cause trouble for the blooming season in the spring. A happy balance is needed.
Additionally, trees don’t grow as much in the winter as they do in other months. This means that they aren’t exerting as much energy, meaning they don’t need as much “food” to thrive. Winter is when trees save up energy for the spring. This storing of energy means that less water is needed and absorbed by the roots.
Luckily, overwatering is an issue that can be handled properly from the get-go. Here are five tips to make sure that your tree doesn’t become an overwatered tree in the winter.
It’s important to continue watering your trees on your regular schedule as the winter season begins. However, once the ground begins to freeze, it’s important to monitor the weather conditions before you water your tree as usual. If there’s little precipitation happening and little to no snow covering the roots of your tree, you can typically safely water your tree once or twice a month until spring weather comes. This may increase if the weather becomes windy, as trees in windy areas need more water.
Think about other seasons—if there is a summer rainstorm, do you water your tree that day? The answer is probably no. The same applies in the winter. If a rainstorm, snowstorm, or ice storm is coming, the same applies.
Watering at the beginning of the day is a good practice to help prevent overwatering. Trees absorb water slowly. This means that if you do water in the morning, then the trees will have the entire day to take in the water. Additionally, it’s important to water when the sun is out to help combat any freezing that can melt later. Watering early also helps make sure that everything is being absorbed before the temperature drops in the evening.
It’s good practice to water when it’s above 40 degrees out outside. It’s also important to only do this when there’s no snow, ice, or other precipitation on the ground that could melt and be absorbed by the roots of the trees.
Mulch is extremely beneficial to the health of your tree. In fact, mulching your tree during the winter is a good idea as well. By doing this, you’re helping to restore nutrient levels in the roots. It also helps to warm the temperature of the winter soil. In terms of preventing an overwatered tree, mulch locks in the amount of moisture that the tree needs, though it isn’t a total barrier when it comes to overwatering. Water can penetrate the mulch, but mulch does help absorb some of the water and regulate the moisture of the soil. Mulch also helps to give the tree a nice buffer from the extreme weather conditions that winter can bring with it. It helps your tree thrive in both hot and cold temperatures, which is why investing in high-quality mulch is important.
If water pools around your tree after a storm, don’t ignore it. See where it’s coming from. Your tree may have been planted on a bit of an incline without you even noticing it. Even what seems to be the slightest of inclines can have a post-storm effect on where water pools. Your tree may be subject to this pooling water and becoming overwatered because of it. This is especially true if the melted snow and ice turn into water that runs downhill to the base of your tree.
If natural effects like this are causing your overwatered tree, it may be time to remove the tree. You can contact a trained arborist, such as those at Mr. Tree, to do this for you, as an expert can help guide you in the best place to replant the tree.
This old rule of thumb applies in the winter too. If the soil is wet, the tree has enough moisture. You don’t want to add on to this water, as it will result in overwatering. Even if you haven’t watered in a while, check to see if the soil is wet. It can still be moist due to a recent storm. Don’t simply assume that your soil is dry just because you haven’t watered in a while. Be sure to check first.
The potential to overwater your tree may not seem possible in the winter, but it is. Protect your trees by following the five tips above. Your tree will thank you, and they’ll be sure to bloom beautifully in the spring, as expected. If you’re worried that you did overwater your tree or are worried about an upcoming storm, please feel free to give Mr. Tree a call. One of our trained arborists can come by and assess the situation and help you prevent any permanent damage.
For even more ways to help your trees thrive during these cold winter months, here are some additional tips for taking care of your trees during the winter season. A well-taken-care-of winter tree turns into a flourishing spring tree.