How to Prepare & Protect Your Trees from Ice & Snow This Winter

frozen pine tree with icicles on the branches

As the weather turns colder this winter, trees naturally turn dormant to help avoid serious damage. We’re all used to seeing many of our local trees shed their leaves in the fall every year. That’s part of a process called “senescence”, which is the natural action trees take as days get shorter. Dormant trees in the winter may look inactive, but they do continue some slow growth and respiration processes.

Wintry weather like snow and the harsh ice storms we get here in North Carolina can damage dormant trees. Winter weather can also make trees more likely to pick up a destructive pest infestation or disease.

Don’t let it happen to your trees! There are a number of helpful things you can do to prepare your trees and help protect them from cold temperatures, ice, and snow this winter.

1. Pruning & Dead Wood Removal

The first step you should take to help you tree stay healthy through winter is seasonal pruning. It’s key to remove any branches that are visibly dead or damaged. This dead wood can provide safe shelter and food for harmful pests when the weather gets cold, making an infestation more likely.

You should also trim low-hanging branches that could touch the ground if there’s snow or ice accumulation. Branches that come in contact with the ground can allow pests to take up residence and hurt the tree’s health.

With all winter-season pruning, it’s important to limit the number and size of cuts to minimize how much of the tree’s heartwood is exposed to the elements. Proper pruning and dead wood removal will conserve the tree’s living branches without doing extra damage. The experts at Blackhawk Tree Services specialize in winter pruning, so we’re here to make sure it’s done right for your trees.

2. Mulching & Soil Treatment

Another good step to take in tree winterization is to add an extra layer of mulch to the soil surrounding your trees’ trunks. Be sure to use a good-quality composted mulch, and spread it several inches deep to cover the full area under each tree’s branch spread. This will help insulate the trees’ roots and provide additional nutrients for the tree during the winter months.

We also recommend adding a mat barrier, such as a tree circle, underneath your layer of mulch to help keep pests from the mulch finding a way into a tree’s roots. It’s also important not to pile too much mulch right around a tree’s trunk, as this can promote rot and give bugs and other critters a way into the bark and beyond.

Finally, it’s a good idea to fertilize around your trees before it gets too cold. We suggest aerating hard, compacted soil to ensure roots don’t suffocate or rot. Also, because winters can be very dry, we recommend watering your trees, as long as the soil isn’t frozen—just be cautious not to over-water.

3. Insulation & Wrapping

Cold, dry winter weather can cause animals to chew or rub against the bark of many trees. So, wrapping the bases of your trees with a proper tree wrap will help protect them from this damage. It’s also a good idea to wrap the trunks of newer, younger trees to help insulate them from the coldest winter nights. Many trees are also vulnerable to harsh wintry winds, so an insulating wrap can be a necessary form of protection.

In the event a major snow or ice storm is forecasted, with significant accumulations, you will want to consider wrapping certain trees’ branches to prevent sagging and breakage. If you have any Bradford Pears on your property, for example, you probably know just how fragile they can be in an ice storm. Other local trees that are susceptible to snow and ice breakage include the red maple, birches, and elms. Also, most of our state’s indigenous evergreen trees, like pines, firs, cypresses, and others, are especially vulnerable to snow and ice buildup. Tying up a tree’s branches can make all the difference in the worst winter storms.

4. Moving Potted Trees

If you have any trees that are in their own pots or containers, these can be especially vulnerable to cold weather. So, we recommend moving these trees indoors, if possible, when temperatures fall below freezing. Even being in an unheated garage can make all the difference. Just be sure your potted trees are still able to get some sunlight! Rooms with south-facing windows or skylights are often the best winter spots for your potted trees.

What to Do If a Tree Limb Breaks

Even if you take all the right precautions, you can still have tree limbs break and fall after an ice or snow storm. If a tree on your property breaks, it’s important to act quickly. First, you should keep away from the tree-covered areas of your property until after the snow or ice has cleared and the danger of further breakage reduces.

If a limb has fallen on your house, garage, shed, or other building, start by making sure everyone is okay, and then move everyone to a safe place. If there are downed power lines, immediately call 911 and then your power company. After that, get in touch with your homeowners insurance provider and take detailed pictures of the damage. Last, call the emergency tree removal specialists at Blackhawk. We’ll respond right away to remove the fallen limbs and repair the damage quickly.

Call Blackhawk for Your Tree Winterization Needs

For the best results this winter, you should trust the pros at Blackhawk to winterize your trees. We’ll come to your property, look at every tree individually, and then create an effective plan to make sure they’re all protected.

Now’s the perfect time to get started! Just contact the tree care experts at Blackhawk, and we’ll guide you through the winterization process.