by Megan Townsend
When the weather turns cold, and the leaves are gone each winter, it’s easy to forget our trees and shrubs still need care. You can do a few things at home to keep your trees and shrubs healthy through the winter and ready for Spring.
While trees and shrubs are dormant in the winter, young trees especially need water. On average, five gallons per week on young trees and shrubs will be enough. Water with a 5-gallon bucket, or you can turn on the hose at a trickle for about 10 minutes. Just be sure to remove the hose from the spigot and drain properly when finished to avoid costly damage to your plumbing.
You should not water if it is under 40° F or if there has been substantial snow or rain within the past week. Older, established trees are less likely to need watering through the winter but may need watering as well during a drought.
Fruit trees such as crabapple, pear, and cherry trees are prone to a disease called fireblight, which is easily spread with pruning tools in the summer months. Pruning during the dormant season decreases the risk of spreading fireblight. While you can prune all trees year-round, even non-fruit trees benefit from pruning during the winter months.
The best part of having a fruit tree is enjoying the beautiful blossoms each Spring. These beautiful blossoms, however, leave these trees vulnerable to breakage during heavy spring snowstorms. A great way to avoid this is to make sure your trees, including young trees, are pruned every 3-5 years. Savvy homeowners may wish to do this themselves; however, once a tree is large enough to need a ladder, it’s best to leave this hazardous work to a properly trained arborist. (See Hiring an Arborist below.) If you get caught by a spring storm, be sure to knock the snow off the branches throughout the storm. Ensure you remove snow by pushing up on the branches from below instead of hitting from above to avoid breakage.
Sadly, sometimes a tree needs to be removed due to death, damage, or improper placement. Winter is a good time for removals as the ground is frozen and your flowers and lawn are dormant. Removal in the winter reduces the risk of damage to the landscape. Unless your tree is very small, removal should always be done by qualified arborists to minimize the risk of harm to you and your property.
Hiring an Arborist
Sometimes it’s best to have a professional evaluate and treat your trees, but how do you choose the right company? Here are a few quick tips: The company should have an ISA-certified arborist on staff. They should also be insured for auto, general liability, and workers’ compensation. An arborist should be licensed in your municipality if that is required. Longmont and Erie both have high standards for their licensing programs. If the company you are considering does not have these qualifications, look elsewhere. It’s also a good idea to get 2-3 estimates for tree work. Most companies provide free estimates. Your trees are an essential part of your landscape, and you want them in the best hands.
Megan Townsend and her husband Hunter Townsend co-founded Altitude Arborist, a local tree care company. Megan manages the nitty-gritty business details while Hunter, an ISA-Certified Arborist, manages all things tree-related. They live with their daughters, dogs, and a menagerie of other furry, scaled, and winged creatures in Broomfield.