A phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘Winter Damage’ often occurs in trees during the cold winter months.
With the brutally cold winter winds of Illinois folks often wonder whether this may have a negative effect on their trees and shrubs. Granted, winter can be a challenging time for these silent sentinels, exposing them to risks such as frost damage, dehydration, and breakage but steps can be taken to reduce the risks.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through a few effective strategies to protect your trees during the cold months helping to ensure they emerge in spring healthy and strong.
Why is Winter Protection Important for Trees in Illinois?
Young trees in particular planted in the previous few years are vulnerable to frost damage which kills cells within the tree, which can lead to bark splitting. This situation is accentuated when trees and shrubs go into the winter too dry. Fluctuating temperatures contribute to this situation.
Preventing Winter Damage is best dealt with by making sure to thoroughly water your trees, especially young trees, as late into the fall as November and December, before the ground freezes. Most homeowners have never even considered watering that late as garden hoses are usually put into storage by then. We suggest pulling them out when necessary.
If the area has experienced a rainy fall then additional water is not necessary but Illinois has suffered through three drought seasons in a row, 2021, 2022, and 2023 so effective watering should be adhered to when necessary…and especially into late fall.
Should We Wrap the Trunks of Young Trees?
Older, established trees have a thicker more insulated bark so wrapping them is not necessary at all. They have survived years of weather extremes and have grown accustomed to the extreme conditions. Young trees have very thin bark. Wrapping their trunks with commercial tree wraps or burlap can offer some protection however, in our opinion, it is definitely secondary to proper hydration as previously mentioned.
If you do decide to wrap that special young tree start at the base moving upward and tie the wrappings off at the lowest limbs. Wrapping should be done in late fall and removed in early spring to prevent an overheating of the trunk. In addition, wraps create an inviting, cool damp environment for boring insects to invade the trunk once they start to emerge so do not let it remain on the tree too long.
Mulch acts like a blanket, insulating your tree’s root system over the winter and preserving moisture year-round. Apply no more than a 2 to 3-inch layer of any organic mulch and, above all, be careful to avoid any direct contact of mulch with the trunk itself. Piling mulch up against a tree trunk, no matter the size of the tree is the worst thing you can do.
Winter is an ideal time to trim many tree species such as Oak and Elm but avoid trimming Maple and River Birch until late spring, summer, or fall. Removing weak, broken, or diseased branches can reduce the risk of winter storm damage. It is often advisable to seek the advice of tree care professionals.
Taking steps to protect your trees during Illinois harsh winters is not just about surviving the cold months; it’s about maintaining the health and beauty of your landscaping year-round!
Don’t let the winter cold catch your trees unprepared in future years. For additional expert advice or professional assistance REACH OUT TO TREE GREEN. Our team is dedicated to helping you keep your valuable trees healthy and beautiful, regardless of the season.