Are Your Trees Ready for Winter?

The shoulder season between fall and full-on winter can be damaging for trees when snow falls before they’ve dropped all their leaves.  The snow clings to every leaf, weighs down the branches and they can break. Now is when we need to pay attention to our trees and be ready to offer some TLC if snow flies before all the leaves drop – and also think about winter pruning. If you see snow accumulating and you can reach branches on smaller trees, use a broom handle to gently shake limbs so snow falls off.  Start on the lowest branches.  Otherwise, snow falling from higher onto lower branches just adds to their snow load that leads to breakage. Don’t forget evergreens.  Even though they stand tall winter after winter, in very heavy snows, their branches can also break.  Keep an eye on them during heavy snows and lightly shake their branches as well. Prune to prevent storm damage and decay Colorado trees have had a hard year – especially those along Colorado’s Front Range where last November’s freeze did serious damage as did the Mother’s Day snow storm.  Many trees still have untreated dead and damaged branches that could become a hazard this winter when heavy snows fall and harsh winds blow. High winds lead to broken, ripped limbs which should be pruned back with a clean cut.  Otherwise, torn limbs left alone can invite pests and disease.  This is one time when having an arborist, who really knows trees, do the work pays off for the long term.   Also be aware of “hangers” – limbs that may be damaged but are still hanging on. They could fall at any time to damage property or injure people.  Look up and play it safe. Advantages of winter pruning

  • Heavy spring rains led to excessive growth that will put even more branches under snow loads.  Consequently, thinning some of this growth to lighten the tree canopy can be beneficial.
  • Branches without leaves are easier to see and they are lighter and easier to remove.
  • Diseases such as Fireblight are dormant in the winter and will not be spread during pruning.

What not to prune Trees and shrubs that flower early in the spring have already set the buds that will become pretty flowers next season.   Avoid pruning flowering trees and lilac, dogwood, forsythia, viburnum and spirea in the fall as you will see fewer flowers next spring. Brown needles are normal On pine and spruce trees, the oldest needles turn brown and this is to be expected.  Typically, the brown needles are not at the end of the branch, but the older needles that are further back on the branch.

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