Snow and Ice
Snow and ice can look magical on trees, but they can also destroy then. The weight of snow can crush evergreens by breaking them apart. It can also weigh down deciduous tree limbs until they also break. Sometimes it weighs so heavily on a treetop that it can lift the root mass right out of the soil.
Ice-coated trunks and branches bend low and sometimes snap. You can help avoid permanent damage by gently brushing snow off the branches you can reach.
- An arborist may need to stake or cable trees vulnerable to folding under the weight of ice.
- Whether cabled or not, let the ice melt naturally.
- Prune any damage so the tree will not create a hazard. Well-pruned trees and shrubs stand up better to snow and ice than trees with weak branch crotches or more than one leader.
- Trying up boxwood or erect evergreens like red cedar and arborvitae may help prevent injury.
- Crisscross the entire crows with nylon cord or fishing line and remove promptly in the Spring.
- Protect smaller shrubs with teepee made from leaning two boards.
Healthy trunks and branches ben to some extent with the wind. The branches most susceptible to breaking are heavy ones that join with the trunk at an acute angle. Choosing healthy, well formed trees can prevent this damage. If it’s too late for that, you can have an arborist help you shape the tree for added strength. Wind protection is particularly important for evergreens, which keep losing water through their leaves during the winter. Making sure these trees and shrubs are well watered before the ground freezes helps prevent the foliage from turning brown. Although you should cut back the volume of water you give your trees in early fall so they can harden off for winter, keep watering them until the ground freezes.
You can also avoid damage to evergreens through proper planting. Never plant evergreens susceptible to wind damage, like arborvitae and yew, on the south sides of your home. In most of the US, the westerlies or prevailing winds move from the west or southwest towards the east or northeast. Local geography, including large bodies of water and tall buildings, may affect wind speed and direction in a particular place. West-to-east airflow snakes in ridges or crests throughs or depressions going north and south. Winds on the west side of a ridge are from the south-west (warm) and those on the east side travel from the northwest (cold). If you must, build a two or three-sided wind fence out of stakes and burlap to block the prevailing winter wind and the southern and southwestern exposure of the evergreens.
If a lightning strike hits a tree on your property, you may not see the injuries, but they can range from burnt roots to systematic damage inside the tree. External damage takes many forms. Long strips of bark may hang loosely from the tree, a branch may explode or pests may overwhelm the injured tree. Popular landscape trees are month the more susceptible trees to lightning damage. Although you can’t prevent a calamity, you can planet trees less vulnerable to strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes a tree without doing too much damage, you can help it bounce back by first cutting off hanging bark, then fertilizing the plant, keeping its root zone mulched, and watering it during dry spells.
A lack of water in the soil affects trees and shrubs by decreasing their vigor and even killing them. Drought destroys feeder roots and root hairs, which provide the avenue for most water absorption. Because they are are mostly in the top foot of the soil, they are quickly affected by moisture loss. The tree suffers stress, and leaves may wilt, scorch, or drop. Spider mites, leaf eating insects or wood borers are active in hot dry weather and invade the drought stressed tree.
If you live in an area known for dry soils and lack access to irrigation water, plant only drought tolerant species. If you live where drought is infrequent, keep trees and shrubs well watered during dry spells and remember that it’s better to water deeply and less frequently instead of briefly watering the soil surface every few days. During a drought, water newly panted trees weekly and more established trees every four to six weeks.
To water a tree deeply, set up a trickling hose around the drip line and leave it in place for 30 minutes. Move the hose to one third the way around the tree and water again for the same amount of time. Repeat more more time. If the tree is very big, you’ll need to move the hose to more spots around the drop line. Recently transplanted material needs special care and plenty of water to help it become established.
*This information was provided by the Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook.