What Happens to Tree Roots in the Winter?
In the winter it seems the roots of trees in cold climates become predominantly dormant. Like the branches above the ground, the roots spend the majority of the winter months resting and full root growth only starts again in spring when the ground is no longer covered in snow, ice and frost.
But, unlike the parts of the tree that are visible, the roots appear to be ready and able to grow at any time, regardless of what is going on above the ground. This means that while the roots don’t grow much in the winter if the soil temperature increases the roots will break dormancy and grow, even if the temperature above the ground remains bitterly cold. The ability to grow if conditions are favorable is important for the health of trees as it allows the root system to expand and find water and nutrients in anticipation of bud break in the spring.
Tree roots may be ready and able to grow at any time but unfortunately, they are not as hardy when it comes to surviving the cold as the trunk and branches. When the soil temperature drops below 20°F the roots can freeze and die. If the soil is well insulated by a layer of snow after a heavy early snowfall, winter root activity can continue and help replace roots damaged during the year as well as prepare the tree for spring. However, a heavy snowfall late in winter can keep the soil frozen for a long time and the roots will remain inactive well into early spring and that is not good news for the tree.
The freezing and cracking of winter soil is particularly harmful to shallow roots, damaging the fine feeder roots that are typically found in the upper layers of the soil and negatively affecting the tree both above and below the surface. Winter root damage will curtail the growth of trees in spring and in extreme instances, it will severely damage or kill your trees. In these cases, you will require the services of a tree removal company.
How to Protect Your Tree Roots During the Winter
At Martin’s Tree Service we are dedicated to protecting your trees. Call us for all your tree care needs and to discuss emerald ash borer treatment options.