Winter tree damage can occur from any list of cold related problems. Tree damage is not generally caused by an unusually long winter, but from extreme temperature fluctuations in Colorado and the timing of these cold weather extremes during the dormant periods. A good winter tree inspection helps identify problems before Spring rolls around.
- Structural problems
Look for branches with a poor attachment angle. Branches should be directed slightly upward at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees, not too horizontal or too upright. Check for cracks and splitting around branch junctions. If you find such damage on large trees, contact a professional arborist to help determine the best action. The last thing to check for is included bark, where the tree does not make normal wood bark on the top of the branch junction but instead produces bark in the joint. This soft, corky tissue causes branches to be very weak and remove these if feasible.
- Pests and diseases
Destructive insect pests during the wintertime include borers. Look for small holes, sawdust-like frass, or loosened bark that may indicate a problem is looming. Spider mites can also be a problem in the winter. Warm days following a period of cold weather are enough to “wake up” these pests and cause them to start feeding. Other types of insects such as aphids or beetles take this time to lay eggs on trees and may become problematic next summer.
When leaves are down, it’s easier to see a tree’s structure and form, dead or undesirable branches, and crocks or broken stubs. Pruning helps remove dead, diseased or damaged branches, which helps reduce overall branch density and allows new growth. Depending on the size of the tree, consider calling a certified professional arborist to inspect for inherent structural problems.
Make sure that trees are properly mulched and watered going into winter. Mulch helps retail moisture and insulate roots from freezing. Protect trucks of young, thin-barked trees, such as ash and maples, from winter sun and wind by wrapping trucks with a commercial tree wrap and place fencing around plants to provide good defense against deer, elk, rabbits and mice.
If your trees have been damaged by the winter season, you should examine them closely to determine whether or not you should call a professional tree service to help you care for them or possibly even remove them.