Though we know that plant life tends to flourish in the summer and spring, don’t let your hard work go to waste once the windchill starts to creep up. Figuring out how to care for evergreens might seem difficult to new homeowners. “Aren’t trees capable of surviving the winter without my help?” one might wonder. But the answer isn’t quite that simple.
It’s true that trees typically remain dormant throughout the winter months. Dormancy is a very similar process to an animals hibernation meaning that the life-preserving processes slow down throughout the winter including metabolism, energy consumption, and growth.
Trees don’t make food during the winter, hence the period in the autumn when trees shed leaves and slow everything down so that it can use stored energy throughout the winter months. An evergreen follows this pattern too, even though we do see the needles throughout the season. While any tree can survive the cold using this process, there are certainly ways to help care for your evergreen and keep it healthy.
We’ve collected some of the most helpful hints and tips to keep your evergreen trees healthy this winter that are easy for even the novice gardener. Take a look and see how you can make your evergreens flourish come spring.
Mulch can get dry in the winter months, which is why you will want to add a thin layer (no more than 2 inches) of organic mulch along your tree’s drip line. By mulching before the winter starts you’ll keep the soil moist and protect your tree’s roots from extreme cold. A word to the wise: don’t mulch directly onto your tree’s trunk and wait until the ground freezes before you mulch so that critters don’t try to eat it.
While you won’t want to water your trees throughout the winter, especially if the ground is starting to freeze, it is important to remove any irrigation bags you have before the weather gets too cold. If you happen to get a warm spell that thaws your trees and plants, it’s best to water newly-planted trees.
Believe it or not, the trunk is actually affected by the shifting changes in temperature between daytime and nighttime during the winter. In the day, tree trunks can thaw, but at night they’ll freeze and when this happens tree bark can rupture, which can lead to cracks. To prevent cracking, use crepe paper tree wrap to cover the trunk from the bottom closest to the roots up to the lowest branches.
Many gardeners also use burlap to cover their evergreens and shrubs, which will protect the bark from sunscald and wind. Make sure to leave a hole at the top of your wrap to allow a little sunlight in.
You can also paint your tree trunk white to protect the sun’s rays from damaging delicate bark throughout the winter using a water-based latex paint. One to two coats should suffice, but if you still see bark, it’s okay to paint a third.
The important thing to think about when picking a material to wrap your trees in is to select something that breathes. Some gardeners even use paper filled with straw, but never use plastic. While a plastic sheet might seem protective, in reality, it will prevent your tree from “breathing” and can kill or damage your tree.
As one can imagine, animals searching for food in the winter will have a limited amount of options. This is why many critters opt to munch on the bark of young trees when the weather turns cold. But obviously, this is can be extremely detrimental to the health of your evergreen.
To stop rabbits and voles from making a buffet out of your tree, the wrapping method mentioned above is a good way to protect vulnerable bark. You can also use chicken wire to prevent vermin from attacking the tree roots and stop deer from rubbing on trunks.
As trees age and grow fissures, animals tend to leave bark alone, so this is only a problem for younger trees or saplings.
Some gardeners tie their evergreen’s branches up to protect the trees from the weight of heavy snowfall, which is completely up to the prerogative of the homeowner. But if your willing to be a little bit more fearless, there is a good reason to incorporate snow into your tree care routine.
Snow looks lovely in the winter, but that’s not the real reason why your evergreen will thrive when covered with the white powder. Snow protects your evergreens from the elements and insulates them from freezing temperatures. The winter sun can dry out the needles, which could cause them to turn brown by spring. So if you’re nervous about an upcoming snowstorm, let go off your worry and embrace the flurries.
Something that should be kept far away from trees is rock salt, which can interfere with your tree’s ability to absorb water, oxygen, and other important nutrients. If you want to keep ice from forming on your walkways and pavement that’s close to where your trees reside, try products that contain calcium, potassium, or magnesium chloride.
Winter is a good time to inspect your evergreens while they remain dormant. You can more easily view the structure of your plant and see problem branches that need to be pruned.
If you’ve never pruned a tree before, it might be beneficial to hire a professional tree care company to help you out. At Mr. Tree, we specialize in any number of tree removal and care services. Our professionally trained specialist excel at tree pruning and can help you make the crucial decision on which branches should be trimmed or removed to protect the health of the plant.
We pride ourselves on exceptional service, knowledge, and work all year through. If you’re still stumped on how to care for evergreens, why not give us a call today and let our professionals share their knowledge and experience.