Texas winters are mild, but the temperature drops do have an effect on trees’ health. Many trees benefit from a bit of special attention during this season, particularly while they’re more vulnerable as saplings. If you’re looking for advice on how to prepare your trees for winter, consider these four practices.
Water Deeply, and Then Stop
Winter can be just as dry as the summer. For that reason, it helps to give trees plenty of water—ranging from 20 gallons to upwards of 100, depending on trunk diameter—in the late fall. Tree cells with adequate water aren’t as vulnerable to the cold, so watering serves the dual purpose of nutrition and protection.
After this, avoid watering, as frost may set in. That said, during stretches of mild weather over 40 degrees, it’s safe to water a bit.
Wrap the Trunk to Stop Sun Scald
Next, wrap your thin-barked trees to insulate against sun scald and frost cracks. You can buy commercial tree wrap for this.
What Is Sun Scald?
Sun scald occurs when dormant tree cells inadvertently activate in the winter and, as a result, can’t protect themselves against freezing damage. The process begins when they warm up due to direct sunlight or generally mild temperatures. It manifests as sunken-in or dead bark.
How Do Frost Cracks Happen?
Meanwhile, frost cracks—vertical breakages in the bark—occur as the physical tension within a freezing tree worsens. This tension comes from the bark shrinking as it freezes and moving relative to unfrozen areas. This differential leads to cracking. Wrapping your trees provides a barrier that regulates their temperature so that sun scald and frost cracks don’t happen.
Mulch Around It
Another strategy for preparing your trees for winter involves mulching around them. Think of mulch as an insulator—a thick layer around the roots keep the ground warmer and more cold-resistant. As always, don’t mulch within five inches from the trunk so that you don’t give fungi a home near the tree’s body.
Our final tip: prune away dead or dying branches. To spur on springtime growth, it’s usually best to do a full pruning job in the late winter. Nonetheless, as long as you wait until trees go dormant, it’s safe to do some trimming, especially if you’re only removing dead branches.
Consider your tree species and talk to a certified arborist in Austin, Texas, to determine the best time for this job. When it comes time to trim, leave the job to professionals who know how to do it safely.