Winter can be especially hard on trees, particularly if your area experiences ice, snow, or high winds. Late winter is the typical time to prune most trees, with the exception of those that flower in early spring. This makes it a great time to also assess how your trees handled winter, and make any necessary repairs to ensure they enter the new growing season in good health. The following are some common winter woes you may encounter, and how to deal with them.
Issue #1: Broken branches
Broken branches are common after winter storms. These need to be cut off at the base. Cut flush to the collar of raised wood located where the branch connects to the trunk or a larger branch. If only the tip of a branch is damaged, then you can trim back the damaged portion to the nearest healthy wood. Just make the cut directly in front of a visible leaf bud so you don't end up with bare tips.
Issue #2: Dead wood
Branch dieback is also relatively common, particularly after a hard winter. The trouble is that it can be difficult to tell whether a branch is dead or simply dormant. Hold off on trimming out branches until the buds begin to burst later in spring. This way you can be sure you are only cutting out the dead wood.
Issue #3: Bark splitting
Split bark occurs when the winter sun hits one side of the trunk and heats it up, encouraging the sap beneath to flow. Then, freezing temperatures hit and the sap freezes and expands, thus splitting the bark. Wrapping trunks of trees with thin bark in the fall can prevent winter splitting. If the bark has already split, then after the last frost is time for treatment. Use sterilized knife to trim the bark around the split so the edges are smooth and flush to the wood beneath. This allows the tree to form a protective callus over the damage.
Issue #4: Frost heave
Frost heave is the result of the ground going through several freeze-thaw cycles, which result in tree roots being pushed up and exposed. Mulching heavily around the tree in fall prevents frost heave. In the spring, you can spread fresh topsoil around the base of the tree to cover any winter-exposed roots, just don't bury the base of the trunk in the added soil.
For more help in getting your trees ready for spring, contact a tree service.