Winter is winter, whether mild or severe. Trees enter a dormant period, losing their leaves and conserving energy for next spring. Help your trees stay strong over the winter with these top fall tree care tips for a healthy landscape.
Trees need water throughout the winter. Give your trees a good, deep drink once a month or so during the winter when the weather is cool (but not freezing). Young trees still establishing their roots are especially susceptible to drought. After you water, the soil should be moist—not soggy—from the “drip line,” or the widest part of the tree’s canopy outward toward the edge of the tree’s root zone.
Mulch keeps the ground moist around your trees. It also helps keep temperatures moderate. Mulch deters weeds and creates a zone around your trees that naturally keeps mowers and weed whackers away, avoiding injury to the trunk. Keep mulch several inches away from the tree’s base to prevent root rot. You should be able to see the beginning of the roots flaring out from the base of the tree’s trunk. The top tip about fall tree care is to avoid “volcano” mulching that hugs the base of the tree.
Wait until your deciduous trees have lost their leaves and the weather becomes brisk enough to discourage the spread of fungi to prune dead branches. Dead and damaged branches can be winter hazards when snow and ice bring them down. Pruning can be dangerous as it drops branches in unpredictable directions below. If pruning requires getting up on a ladder, don’t do it yourself. Call a professional tree service to assess your tree’s health and prune wisely to keep your tree in good shape.
Young trees benefit from the protection of a wrap around their trunk. A metal cloth keeps critters from gnawing at the tree and burlap or plastic cloth can protect against cold temperatures. Take the guards or wraps off early in the spring as the tree comes out of dormancy and begins to grow again.
Fall is a great time to add trees to your landscape. After all, it’s the season trees work on establishing and growing their roots, saving energy for leafing out for the spring. Make sure you dig the hole to the proper width and depth, leaving the top of the root ball just a bit above the ground. Water deeply once every week or two for the first month and monthly thereafter as weather permits (so, when not freezing). Lay down a good layer of composted mulch to nourish and protect your new tree.