Trees are dormant in the winter but this does not mean that they are unaffected by the cold. Extreme weather conditions that cause temperature fluctuations, frost, ice, and dry conditions can take a toll on trees in your Waterloo garden. The stress caused by the cold weather can damage or weaken trees and make them more susceptible to bacteria, diseases, and insect attacks.
When temperatures drop below a tree’s natural tolerance the tree is placed under severe stress. This will not be obvious to the naked eye in winter, but you will see a difference in the spring when new growth on the tree is not as abundant as usual. By having the trained eye of an arborist, Waterloo residents can keep their trees healthy and strong. Here are some of the impacts winter has on trees.
A sudden drop in temperature can cause frost cracks in the bark of trees. These cracks are potential sites of bacterial infection or insect infestation. The cracks occur mostly on the sunny side of the tree where the greatest temperature fluctuations occur between day and night. Sunscald is a similar injury caused by the sun warming a section of the tree on unusually warm winter days. If these injuries are merely superficial the tree will recover easily but if the wound is deep, it can cause lasting damage.
Unseasonably warm weather followed by a rapid drop in temperature and snowfalls can also have a negative impact on the trees in your Waterloo garden. The warm weather causes the tree to start coming out of dormancy and new buds begin to swell. A sudden cold snap after this process has started will kill the new buds, making the tree less vigorous in spring. After a cold snap, an arborist will be able to advise you on a fertilizer application program to help counteract the damage and replenish the nutrients the tree has expended forming the buds that did not survive.
Tree branches are more brittle in winter and heavy ice build-up can cause branches to break under the additional weight. But don’t try to remove this ice yourself, it can be dangerous and you can damage the tree even more. After a storm, it is important to examine your trees for ice build-up, broken branches, damage to the crown, cracks, and trees leaning at dangerous angles. If you have any concerns, get a qualified arborist to come out to assess the risk and give you advice.
We are not the only species to suffer from frostbite, it can also have an impact on trees. Trees are most vulnerable to frostbite in late winter and early spring when they are emerging from dormancy. Frost forms when the humidity in the air combines with below (or near) freezing temperatures. If this occurs when the tree is actively growing or producing fruit and flowers, the damage can be severe. Flowers, buds, leaves, and fruit can all turn brown or black. New leaves and shoots will also twist, curl and wilt.
Extreme cold in the winter leads to a lower moisture content in the air and soil and trees, especially evergreens, can struggle to find the moisture they need to stay healthy through the coldest months. The resulting damage is known as winter burn and can turn evergreen needles brown. In severe cases, the tree may never recover. The application of an anti-desiccant by an arborist can help protect evergreens from winter burn.
You can help reduce the risk of winter damage to your trees by planting them in well-drained soil, applying mulch, checking the moisture content of the ground regularly, and using windbreaks to prevent damage. To combat the effects of the cold weather it is advisable, and highly beneficial, to give your Waterloo trees an application of spray-on fertilizer to help replenish any nutrients expended to survive the cold. An arborist will be able to advise you on how best to protect your trees from severe cold and how to treat winter damaged trees.
If you suspect that any of your trees have suffered during the winter you need to contact an arborist in Waterloo to assess the damage and advise you on how to save the tree or remove it if necessary.