How to Protect Young Trees from Winter Damage

By: albertaarb - December 23, 2015

alberta arborist

Support Your Saplings Through Winter

As the winter approaches, young trees located on your property face a challenging season of conditions which are averse to their survival. As they age, trees become stronger and hardier, better able to survive harsh weather and long winter seasons. However, when saplings haven’t developed their defences, you need to help them survive winter damage.

Preventing Evergreen Bleach

Dry, bright winter conditions are perfect for causing evergreen trees to turn brown, especially if they’re planted in an area that exposes your evergreen to this type of damage. According to Dr. Leonard Perry from the University of Vermont, “sunny days in winter, or wind, can cause evergreen leaves to lose water… since the ground is frozen, roots can’t take up replacement water, so the result is the leaves drying out and browning.”

Typically, this type of damage takes place on the southwest or the southern parts of the tree, as well as the parts of the tree exposed to prevailing winds. The best way to prevent this type of injury is to plant the tree away from areas exposed to a great deal of sunlight. The other option is creating a burlap barrier that faces the direction where the damage originates.

The Winter Sun Scalds

Sun scald affects trees situated in areas which develop shadows rapidly. During the day, the sun warms the bark sufficiently to activate growth processes within the tree. If the tree plunges into a shadow created by your home, a small hill or anything else that eclipses the sun, the resulting temperature drop causes significant damage to the bark and internal tissue.

Trees with thin bark, such as cherry, maple or mountain ash, are most susceptible, as well as young trees and those which have been pruned to lift the branches. To prevent damage through sun scald, cover the trunk with commercial tree wrap or a light-colored cover that reflects the sun and prevents the bark from heating up.

Professional Arborists Can Help

Winter is a good time to consult an arborist to inspect your trees. Winter foliage loss provides a clearer view for spotting some problems, such as weak branch attachments or insect damage, but an arborist can help you determine the best solutions for your trees.

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