As we are right in the middle of Florida’s cooler months, caring for your trees may not be top of mind, but this dormant (ie. non-growing) winter season provides an ideal opportunity to care for most of the tree varieties that grow in Gainesville.
Appropriate winter tree care has many benefits which include improving your trees’ appearance, vitality, and well-being. A little bit of extra care now can help support the healthy growth of your trees and help them look their best, come springtime.
Winter Tree Pruning
When tree canopies hang too low, they can block your line of vision on your property. Additionally, established trees can grow limbs and branches that may cause concern for power lines or items of value on your property. Here are a few best practices on pruning your existing trees.
Removing dead limbs and branches allows your tree’s nutrients to reach healthier parts of the tree. Dead or weakened branches are at greater risk of falling and proactively removing them helps avoid unintentional injury or property damage. Also, you might want to consider removing low vertical branches as these can grow into second trunks that draw nutrients from the main tree causing it to become more susceptible to breaking during the wet and windy summer months.
When to Prune
According to University of Florida IFAS, it’s smart to prune your trees right before spring’s arrival. Without their dense foliage, it is much easier to assess tree health and identify dead or dying limbs and branches. Winter pruning also helps prevent pest infestations that can happen due to pruning cuts. In other words, winter is a great time to assess your tree needs and, because they are mostly dormant, they will have ample time to heal before the growing season comes.
The Alachua County Unified Land Development Code (ULDC) outlines a few best practices for pruning your trees and is worth reviewing before starting.
In short, pruning in winter is a wise decision to increase the safety and health of your property but it is best done by a licensed arborist as improper pruning could hinder the future of your trees or be met with unwanted fines.
Using mulch in winter provides many benefits including maintaining root temperatures in cold weather, retaining soil moisture, preventing spring weeds, and minimizing future soil erosion around your trees. There are a few simple ways to make sure your trees get the maximum benefit possible from mulch.
- Mulch in a sufficient diameter. Be aware that your tree’s root system likely extends farther underground than you might expect. Make sure you provide enough mulch to cover the entire root zone.
- Don’t pile the mulch around the tree’s trunk. This can actually lead to trunk rot. It’s best to start your mulch a couple of inches away from the base of your tree.
- Add soil or compost. Your tree needs nutrients and, while old mulch will break down over time, it’s smart to add nutrient-dense soil underneath your mulch to create the best environment for your tree.
- Maintain an appropriate layer of mulch. It’s not common but using too much can actually block water and nutrients from reaching your trees’ roots while not mulching at all can cause the soil to dry quickly and rob important nutrients from your trees. It’s best to keep mulch about 2-3 inches deep to avoid either of these two outcomes.
Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees during winter but it’s not as simple as buying a few bags and simply dumping them on your tree. When in doubt, contact a mulch professional that can answer any questions and concerns.
Giving your trees the proper amount of hydration is another essential component of tree care. Mature, established trees should get about an inch of water a week, while new trees need substantially more. It’s recommended that newly-established trees get around 4-10 gallons during their first couple of growing seasons.
We are lucky to live in a state that keeps our trees pretty wet but, monitor your rainfall and manually water your trees as needed – especially when your trees are young. This will ensure that they get all they need to grow strong and healthy.
Giving your tree proper nutrients helps it during the photosynthesis process and ensures it stays healthy as it grows. It’s wise to test your soil and we highly recommend contacting your local IFAS extension office about the process. But, in the meantime, you can watch for the following signs of nutrient-deprived soil:
- Fewer, smaller leaves
- Dead branches
- Discolored leaves
- Darkened leaf veins
If you notice any of these signs, the application of a slow-release fertilizer can help bring your tree soil nutrients back into balance.
Bring in the Experts for Expert Winter Tree Service
For minimal tree care during the winter months, we hope that this article provides you with some direction. For more extensive tree care, we highly recommend contacting a professional.
The experts at Gaston’s Tree Service are ISA-certified arborists who know how to help you preserve the health and beauty of your trees for years to come. We offer free quotes as well as emergency services for your peace of mind. Contact us today to get started on the path to properly nourished trees.