With the spring thaw comes the time to assess the condition of your landscape trees. Winter damages can often be fixed if you act promptly in spring.
1. Dead Wood Removal
Dead branches and branch tips are the most likely winter casualties on your trees, and late winter before leaf break is the time to prune them out. Dead branches are often obvious in late winter because they are brittle and have no visible buds, and pruning at this time won't shock the tree because it is still at least partially dormant.
2. Split Wood Splints
It's not uncommon for winter storms or heavy snow and ice loads to cause a trunk to split at a crock or a large branch to weaken where it joins the trunk. If it's possible to trim out the branch without irreparably damaging the tree, that is the simplest option. Otherwise, trunks and large branches can sometimes be splint. Your service tech will screw the split back together tightly and possibly wrap the wound temporarily to protect it from pests. Over time, the tree will produce new wood over the split that will naturally heal the splint.
3. Add More Supports
Leaning is another common problem in spring. A combination of wet ground from winter thaws along with the wind from storms can lead to leaning trees. Young trees that don't yet have deep root systems are more prone to this issue, and more easily saved. Your service tech can stake the tree upright. The support will be monitored and adjusted over the next year or two, and then removed once the tree is well-rooted again.
4. Winter Burn Recovery
Cold winds cause winter burn, and evergreen trees are most prone. Burn is caused when cold winds dry out the needles or leaves on the evergreen, which can cause foliage to die off the plant. If too much foliage dies, the tree may not recover. It's best to wait until mid-to-late spring after the new needles or leaves begin to emerge. Then the winter burned foliage can be carefully pruned away. Pruning too early can lead to pruning out wood that would otherwise recover.
5. Sun Scald Repair
Young trees and those species with very thin bark may suffer bark splits on sunny but freezing days when direct sun exposure on the trunk causes the sap to flow. The problem is known as sunscald, and it can be fatal if the split encircles or nearly encircles the entire trunk. Wrapping these trees in early winter to insulate them against sunscald is ideal, otherwise, all that can be done is trim the split bark to create a clean edge that encourages quick healing.
Contact a tree care service if you need help caring for your landscape trees after the ravages of winter.