Getting Trees Ready for Winter: 7 Tips
Protect Your Trees Now to Enjoy Them Next Spring
In the fall, getting trees ready for winter is an important part of landscaping maintenance. Follow these 7 tips to give your trees the best chance at a healthy spring and summer next year.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Mulch the Base
There are many reasons that mulching around the tree base is healthy for your tree:
- Prevents erosion, which keeps the root safely in the ground where they belong
- Slows evaporation, so the tree has a longer time to absorb moisture in the soil
- Insulates against temperature changes, so the ground stays a more even temperature and roots are less likely to freeze
- Provides a protective perimeter to prevent damage from lawn mowers
The Penn State Extension office provides good advice for how to apply mulch:
“Mulch as much of the area as possible, preferably to the outermost edge of the tree’s canopy, referred to as the “drip line.” Keep in mind, the drip line moves out as the tree grows.”
“Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch and no more; use less if the soil is poorly drained. More than 4 inches may harm the tree’s root system. If using finely textured or double-shredded mulch, use 1 to 2 inches since these materials allow less oxygen through to the root zone.”
“For tree health, keep all mulch material away from the trunk. Allow the root flare (where the trunk meets the soil) to show. The root flare is at or near the ground line and is identifiable as a marked swelling of the tree’s trunk where roots begin to extend outward.”
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Deep Watering
It’s been a relatively hot and dry autumn in the Cincinnati area. In September, we only saw 5 days with precipitation (compare to 3 days of precipitation in September 2020).
Trees may become stressed in these conditions, and roots may not have access to enough water from rainfall alone. If the grass beneath your tree is starting to brown, that’s a clear indicator that the tree isn’t getting enough water (the tree roots are “stealing” water from the grass roots). In getting your trees ready for winter, water each tree for an extended period of time. The Colorado Forest Service recommends:
“Before storing the garden hose for winter, water trees in the area extending from the trunk to the extent of the longest branches. Water slowly, with a sprinkler or soaker hose, at the rate of 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter.”
If that sounds like a hassle, now is also a great time to install a lawn sprinkler system designed to keep lawn, landscaping and trees optimally watered in every season.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Baby the Babies
When getting trees ready for winter, pay special attention to young and newly-planted trees. For instance, without mulching to regulate the ground temperature, the freeze-thaw cycle could push young trees out of the ground entirely. Their roots haven’t had time to become established and secure the tree in place.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Don’t Prune Yet
Pruning is best done on dormant trees in late winter. If you’re looking to remove an unsightly dead branch, clear branches from walkways or improve the shape of your tree, it’s best to wait for now.
The exception to this rule is pruning for safety. If there’s an unhealthy limb threatening to fall, snow and ice might speed up that process this winter. It’s especially important to remove large limbs that could fall on buildings, utility lines or people walking below.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Apply Protectant
We recommend applying protectant to trees and shrubs in the fall, as part of an ongoing, seasonal tree and shrub care program.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Injection Root Feeding
The spring and fall are both ideal times to feed your tree’s roots. At Paramount, we inject a high-quality, non-water soluble fertilizer directly into the root zone of your trees and shrubs that need feeding. We’ve turned around many trees, shrubs and other plants with our state-of-the-art fertilization applications. Even if your trees don’t seem to be suffering, injection root feeding is good prevention for trees you particularly care about and wish to stay healthy and beautiful.
Getting Trees Ready for Winter: Make Leaves Work for You
Instead of sending your leaves away as lawn waste, consider using a mulching mower on them. Mulched fallen leaves are a natural fertilizer. As they decay, they release nutrients and organic matter valuable for green, healthy lawns.
However, leaving whole leaves on your lawn without mulching them is a bad idea. Clumped together, they might mold and kill patches of your grass. Plus, they won’t decay over the winter, leaving you with a huge mess in the spring.
Follow these 7 steps for getting ready for winter, and you can start dreaming about a beautiful spring again!