Getting Your Trees Ready For Winter| 10/4/2012
Fall Watering: Since the past 12 months have been unusually dry throughout North Dakota, watering your trees now is very important, especially for trees planted within the past five years. The amount of water needed varies by site and previous watering history. It is recommended to provide between five to ten gallons of water per week, per inch diameter of your tree (for example, a tree that is three inches in diameter should get at least 15 gallons of water per week, or about five gallons every second day). Tree roots will continue to absorb water until soil temperatures drop below 40 degrees for a consistent time period, so watering after trees have dropped their leaves continues to be beneficial.
Mulch: Additionally, spreading a four-inch-thick layer of organic mulch around the base of newer plantings helps maintain soil moisture levels. Older established trees are typically able to obtain sufficient water from their more extensive root systems, however, this year`s dry conditions may warrant supplemental water for them as well. If you decide to water your larger trees, water further away from the trunk focusing on the dripline, the area below the outer circumference of the tree`s branches.
Raking and Pruning: Collecting and properly disposing of dead leaves, branches and other plant material in the fall is key to reducing the severity of leaf diseases in your yard for the following year that can harm the aesthetics and health of your trees. By landfilling, composting or burning (where possible) this year`s leaves and twigs, the sources of next year`s infections are effectively removed from your yard. Dead wood can be pruned out of a tree at any time of the year, and reduces the amount of overwintering sites for certain fungi and some harmful insects.
Shade and Protect Your Trees: Preventing winter burn (drying out of fine branches and needles) in conifers and sunscald (bark cracking and injury from intense sunlight) on the trunks of thin-barked trees is important for preserving tree health. Shade your conifers with a constructed burlap sun block on its south side or loosely wrap trees with burlap to prevent winter burn. Wrapping the trunk of younger trees with a light-colored tree guard not only prevents sunscald, but also protects trees from rodent feeding damage that can girdle and kill trees. Protecting the bottom three feet, starting from the soil level, is often sufficient for protection from rabbit and vole feeding. Remember, as snow drifts pile around the trees in the winter, rabbits may be able to access higher areas of your trees. Periodically monitor your trees in the winter as you would during the growing season.
Contact your nearest North Dakota Forest Service office for more information.