Winter is a beautiful time of year and I enjoy the downtime it provides me to spend time with family and friends. I get a lot of questions regarding best practices when it comes to dealing with ice and snow build-up on trees and shrubs during winter months. I hope I can cover all your questions but if there is something I missed please comment below and I can follow up!
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"
Think about your trees and shrubs before the winter months hit. The best thing you can do for your urban canopy is to have a proper maintenance schedule. We base our maintenance around three main things:
1. Location - Do you have a large tree limb overhanging your house or garage? What about kids play structures? Trees with significant property around them will always have a high priority maintenance schedule to make sure they are in great condition void of dead branches and rot. Just because there is a limb over a house or driveway does not make it dangerous!
2. Age - Naturally as trees become more and more mature they will require more attention. However, don't overlook your younger trees! Young trees, especially in an urban environment, require "learning". We can drastically change the shape and life span for the better by simply pruning less dominant leaders and giving the trees interior canopy a general thinning to allow sun/wind to pass through with ease while giving it a desirable shape.
3. Species of tree - depending on the species of tree you have you may not have to prune often or even at all if its been inspected and is healthy. Oaks are a great example of this. However, sometimes just the pure size of them will require us to prune select branches. Trees like Manitoba Maples(box elder) and Poplar require more frequent pruning because of aggressive growth traits and weak structure.
A general rule of thumb is to have mature trees assessed every 2-3 years and small trees every 3-4. If you are purchasing a new property with trees on it have an experienced arborist give you an assessment to ensure long term success and value out of your investment.
Trees that are properly maintained will handle snow and ice far better than those that are neglected. Often all it takes in a severe ice storm is for one small weak branch from near the top of the tree to break to cause a huge chain reaction failure. When ice/snow build up happens gradually most trees will adapt and handle the weight just fine. Little or nothing has to be done on larger trees during an ice storm or heavy snow. If you are unsure please contact an experienced Arborist to give an assessment.
Helpful tips for smaller trees
All to often I witness people beating down shrubs and small trees with brooms and shovels in an attempt to knock snow and ice off there trees to alleviate the weight DO NOT! What you are doing is cracking and damaging the cambium layer of the branch which is essential to a trees health. The Cambium layer is a very thin layer of growing tissue that produces new cells every growing season and is essential to plants health. Cracks within the Cambium layer can cause premature rot and in some cases cause failure to branches in the future. If you are concerned with the amount of ice/snow buildup on your plants during a storm try gently hosing them off with room temperature water working from the outside of branches inwards. Don't use hot water as you can cause premature bud growth. Good luck out there and remember, less is more!
Thanks for reading! Please comment below if I left something out or you have some tips that have worked well for you in the past.