The majority of Minnesota is rated between plant hardiness Zones 3a and 4b by the US Department of Agriculture. The lower the number, the colder the temperature, meaning that only the toughest trees can survive Minnesota’s brutal winters, with temperatures as low as -40˚F.
Even when it comes to trees that are hardy enough to weather our winters, intense cold and accumulation of snow and ice can pose a threat if measures aren’t taken to protect your trees. It’s not just your trees that are at risk, either; if a tree becomes too heavily laden with snow and ice, it may collapse or lose large branches, which can cause serious damage to your house and severe injury to anyone walking beneath. Fortunately, there are some simple measures that you can take to protect your trees and, by extension, the rest of your property during the winter.
Winter Tree Protection Tips
- Prune Dangerous Branches – The most immediate threat to your trees in winter is having their branches break because too much snow and ice builds up on them. To protect trees from winter damage, your best option is to prune any large branches that you think may be especially vulnerable to snow accumulation. This is doubly important if these branches hang over your house, your deck or your driveway, since a collapse can result in catastrophic damage to your home and vehicles. Some people think winter pruning is a bad idea due to the cold but winter is actually the best time to prune your trees. Not only is it easier due to the lack of leaves, trees are dormant during the winter and will not suffer the same level of stress from losing a branch that they would during spring or summer. Additionally, pests and diseases that may take advantage of a fresh cut during warm months are inactive during winter.
- Prevent Sunscald – Not only do you need to protect trees from winter damage caused by snow and ice, you also need to watch out for damage from the sun. Because deciduous trees don’t have leaves during the winter, they are especially vulnerable to sunscald, which occurs when sunlight stimulates bark growth, only for this new growth to be killed by cold temperatures after the sun goes down. Young trees, trees with thin bark (like crabapples and maples) and trees planted in direct sunlight are the most susceptible to sunscald. To prevent sunscald, wrap the trunk of the tree in white plastic which reflects the sun and keeps the bark from warming up too much during the day. Avoid using black plastic, which absorbs heat from sunlight and allows sunscald to occur.
- Burlap Your Evergreens – While evergreen trees are not at risk of sunscald due to retaining their leafage throughout the winter, intense sunlight, strong winds and snow or ice accumulation can still cause them severe damage. For evergreens, your best bet for winter tree protection is to wrap them up with burlap, which provides a number of benefits. A burlap wrapping helps evergreens to retain moisture, while also shielding them against damage from winds and ice. Another benefit of burlap wrapping is that it will stave off deer, who often munch on evergreens when food is scarce.
- Remove High Risk Trees – While cutting off a branch or two can usually alleviate any concerns about collapse and resulting damage during the winter, sometimes an entire tree might need to come down. If there’s a tree on your property that poses a substantial risk of collapse, and if that collapse may prove disastrous for your house or for other trees on your property, your best bet might be to have it removed early in winter before the heavy snowfalls. Winter is actually a great time for tree removal because the frozen ground will prevent heavy equipment from damaging your yard and will also anchor nearby plants so that they don’t wind up getting uprooted with the problem tree.
Winter Tree Care Services in the Twin Cities
There are a number of measures that you can take to prevent damage to your trees, and to prevent trees from damaging your home, during the winter. If you’re in need of professional tree pruning or removal services in the Twin Cities metro, it may be in your best interest to consult certified arborists. Get in contact with Pro-Tree Outdoor Services today for any winter tree care services you require in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area!