It is easy to let yourself believe that wintertime poses no especial threat for trees. Yet the fact is that all of that cold weather can take a serious toll on a tree, causing it elevated amounts of stress. For a diseased or weakened tree, it may be enough to kill it outright. If you would like to learn more about the sorts of threats posed to trees by winter, read on. This article will introduce you to two of the most common sources of damage.
Winter weather isn't just hard on trees, of course. Food becomes scarce for virtually all living organisms. This is especially true of small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice. In order to survive, these rodents often turn to what would normally be an undesirable source of nourishment: tree bark and/or relatively tender branch tips. Should the rodents prove hungry enough, this can generate a large amount of stress for the tree.
There are a number of ways to prevent rodents from damaging your trees during wintertime. While applying mulch in the fall is always a good idea, you must sure to leave a gap of a foot or two between the mulch and the tree trunk. This will keep small rodents such as mice from building nests in the mulch around the trunk. A fence of wire mesh is a great way to prevent ground-bound rodents such as rabbits from causing problems. Likewise, it may be a good idea to invest in some rodent traps to place around especially valuable or beloved trees.
Southwest Winter Injury
This particular form of damage is actually worse in the late fall than it is in the deep of winter. The problem is that, when the sun is out and shining, its heat tends to warm up the western face of the tree. But as soon as the sun has gone down, the temperature drops rapidly below freezing. This sudden cooling leads to a large and rapid change in the temperature of the tree's western face, leading to what is known as southwest winter injury.
This type of injury can be detected by sections of discolored and even cracked bark along the west-facing side of the tree--in other words, the part of the tree that receives the greatest amount of heat from late afternoon sunlight. The injury is caused by cells beneath the bark swelling and bursting open. This exposes the vulnerable inner layer of the tree, making it easy for things like pests and diseases to find their way in.
Southwest winter injury most commonly affects thin-barked younger trees. To help keep such trees safe, consider investing in some tree wrap. This sheet of breathable white plastic acts to reflect the sun's rays away from the tree. This helps to keep the tree's temperature even throughout the day, thus reducing the likelihood of suffering southwest winter injury.