Winter Tree Tips
February 1, 2018
After another hot summer,
we are now facing winter storms. The precipitation is certainly welcome to our
region, but harsh storms can damage our trees. Many trees stressed by recent
drought have decaying or dead branches that could fall during a windy storm.
How can we protect our
trees and ourselves during the stormy months? Now is the time to examine your
trees and prune if needed! Take a walk outside and really inspect your forest. Look
for broken, dead, or diseased branches that could be a hazard and need to be
removed. Excessive amounts of fungal growth on a branch could also be a sign of
decay. Or, you might have entire dead trees that need to come out for safety. Strong,
well-maintained trees should weather the season just fine.
Many younger trees you
can prune yourself. Check out our free, downloadable Pruning Guide on our
website to get started. Or, even better, attend one of our free Pruning Workshops
led by a certified arborist to gain knowledge and practice skills for pruning
your young shade trees at home. See a list of the dates and locations on our
website and register now to
reserve your spot.
Smaller cuts on smaller
trees can be done by you, but be safe -- if you can’t reach the branch by
standing on the ground, hire a certified arborist to do it! Do not attempt to
prune from a ladder. You can find a list of certified arborists in your area by
Additional tips on how to can be found on our website.
Not only is winter an
ideal time to prune for storm preparation, but it is also ideal because trees
are dormant during the winter months and the bare branches make it easier to get
the job done. First, establish your goals for pruning. Choose whether you would
like to train a young tree to grow strong and have a healthy structure; remove
potential hazards in anticipation of winter storms; removing parasitic mistletoe; or
provide clearance from a building. A couple of key points: do not remove any
more than 25% of the tree’s live branches in any one year, and make your
pruning cuts just outside the branch bark collar to allow the tree to heal the
wound naturally. More details on pruning – like the importance of choosing and
establishing a single, central trunk –can be found on our website at www.sactree.com/prune.
Pruning is not the only wintertime
task your trees will appreciate. Mulching is valuable all year round, and in
winter the best benefit of wood chip mulch is reducing weeds that pop up after
the rains. Remove weeds from around the base of your trees then add a layer of
wood chip mulch on top of the soil like a blanket. Make sure the mulch is at
least 4 feet in diameter around your tree, 4 inches away from the trunk, and 6
inches deep. Free wood chips are
available to pick up at SMUD, or you can contact a local tree company. Another
option is to sign up on a website that helps match tree companies with people
in need a mulch delivery: try Chip Drop or Chipero.
Protecting the base of
the trunk and the root crown during the rainy season also helps your trees. If
you built a berm around your young tree to focus deep watering on the root
ball, remove the berm or break a hole in it for the wet winter months. Or, if needed,
dig a trench to drain water away from the trunk. Do not let water pool around
the base of the tree for extended periods of time because it can harm the tree
(this is the same reason you want to keep the layer of wood chip mulch 4 inches
away and not piled against the trunk).
It may not seem like
there is a lot to do during this time of year because the leaves may have
fallen and your tree may be bare and dormant, but it is actually a wonderful
opportunity to provide some needed care.