TREE-ting Your Trees Right: Winter Edition

As we enter the seventh month of the year, it’s worth noting that we’re likewise entering the second month of Australian winter. Thus, as a continuation of our previous blog post, this will focus more on what to do with your trees as we’re facing some of the cooler months. Obviously, you can’t give them a scarf and a pair of mittens to ward off the cold, nor can you substitute their water for a cup or two of hot chocolate. Well, those things, along with dormancy, shouldn’t stop you from taking care of your trees this wintertime. Though your trees might appear to be huge, lifeless giants, there’s still a lot that can be done to keep them in tiptop condition.

Have you got some trees in your backyard? Then you should definitely read on. This is TREE-ting Your Trees Right: Winter Edition!

Yet again, add a ring of mulch.

If you’ve been an avid reader of our blog posts, you’ve probably gotten tired of seeing this again and again. Anyway, it remains an essential thing to do, so we’ll say it once more: make use of mulch—which is made of organic residues, such as straw, shredded bark, and grass clippings. This time, add a thin layer of about 3-4 inches on the space beneath the tree's dripline, which is the area covered with leaves throughout the summer. Similar to when applying it to the rest of your garden, there are a lot of benefits to be obtained from adding a ring of mulch around your trees. It can help retain moisture, significantly reduce the number of weeds, and maintain a more consistent soil temperature. Even more so, research has found that putting a mulch ring 3-6 feet around the tree can significantly boost its growth rate by two times.

However, as the saying goes: everything in moderation. In contrary to the upsides that come with applying mulch on your trees, it also has some potential downsides when used excessively. Some of these are as follows:

  • Due to its cool, dark, and damp nature, an overabundance of mulch can serve as an ideal breeding ground for pests, such as slugs and cutworms.
  • It can suffocate the tree's roots, causing them to climb up and through the mulch in an attempt to get sufficient air.
  • Too much mulch will consequently result in too much moisture, paving the way for the growth of fungi, and ultimately leading to wood decay.
  • Another factor that might lead to the aforementioned disadvantages is how you apply mulch. A common mistake made when mulching trees is called “volcano mulching”. Instead of laying the mulch against the trunk, making it look like your tree is surrounded by one of those science fair volcano experiments, make sure to spread the mulch out evenly by pushing it away from the base of the tree.
  • To conclude, mulch is a wonderful addition to your trees and your whole garden in general, as long as you know the correct method of application along with how much to put.

PRO TIP: If by any chance you’re living anywhere in the country’s southern region, you’re most likely receiving a lot of rain during the winter months. Heavy rains can cause the ground to be soggy, so in the case that the ground becomes too wet and muddy, remove the mulch and allow the soil to dry.

Wrap it up.

Just because we’re known for our sandy dunes and extremely hot temperatures doesn’t mean that we don’t get our fair share of white winters too! Though this doesn’t technically apply to the entirety of Australia, our so-called alpine regions—which range from Victoria all the way to New South Wales—do experience a significant amount of snowfall during the winter season. If you’re from any of these regions, then your trees might experience getting sunburned. This isn’t the typical sunburn that we get on our skin when we go to the beach, though. Strange as it may be, this is a condition called ‘sun scald’, in which the trunk gets thawed out by the sunlight and gets frozen back during nighttime. This leads to ruptured bark cells that eventually creates crevices on the trunk. Sun scalds typically occur on younger trees (as saplings have more delicate exteriors) but may still affect more mature ones. Furthermore, sun scalds also affect the fruits and leaves of a tree.

Now, the question is…how should you deal with sun scalds? In this case, prevention is indeed better than cure because once you see any signs of damage (e.g., dark spots on fruits, discoloured leaves, and withered branches), unfortunately, there’s no turning back. Though there might not be any cure at all, the good thing, though, is that it’s actually very easy and inexpensive to prevent.

Basically, you just have to purchase white or light-coloured tree wrap at a garden store or if that isn’t available, go for sheets, tarps, or burlaps. Wrap this around the trunk, working your way up from the bottom to the part above the lowest branch. Doing so aids in reflecting light away from the tree, thus, maintaining a cooler bark surface temperature. This should be done before the temperature begins to drop. After two or three winters, you wouldn’t have to do this as much, as the bark would’ve hardened and developed by then.

As for the fruits, you can cover them with light materials, such as straw or a screen, to block out the sun.

PRO TIP: Make sure that you don’t forget to remove the tree wrap before the start of the growing season. Otherwise, your tree may serve as a conducive environment for pests to grow in!

Inspect and prune when necessary.

Your trees being in dormancy doesn’t equate to you being dormant in terms of pruning them. As a matter of fact, winter gives you the perfect opportunity to take a good look at your trees’ entire structure and see if there are any problems, such as rotting, infested, or withered parts that would best be trimmed away. While the specific method of pruning varies on what tree it is, a general tip to keep in mind is that your goal must be to retain the healthy limbs and branches that help the tree grow and maintain its structure.

Here are some reasons as to why you should prune during the dormant season:

  • Due to the extremely cold temperatures, there is a minimized risk of spreading pests and diseases.
  • Should you be residing in a place where winters can get either too snowy or stormy, it would be safe to get rid of the weak branches that might break off easily and cause accidents.
  • Winter pruning maximizes the trees’ production of fruit.
  • Trees that commonly produce a lot of sap when cut won’t bleed excessively.
  • Wounds from pruning heal relatively faster, and either way, they won’t be besieged by pests and insects as they are most likely in a state of dormancy as well.

Keep on watering your tree.

Similar to what we have just mentioned in our most recent blog post, if you’re not in a region that receives winter rain, it’s a must for you to continue watering your tree as long as the ground isn’t frozen. For young trees, you can opt to water them with 10-15 gallons either weekly or bi-weekly, especially if they are newly planted, in order to help them bounce back from being transplanted. On the other hand, you can worry less about more mature trees. They require less frequent watering, with only 10-15 gallons of water per trunk diameter inch, measured at breast height every month or at least once every two months.

PRO TIP: It’s crucial to note that the winter climate in Australia is quite diverse, so there isn’t exactly a one size fits all approach to watering. In order to know the frequency and amount of water that your tree needs, familiarize yourself with your trees and establish a thorough understanding of their water requirements.

For more tips on how to TREE-t your trees right, check out the first part of our winter blog! And if you want only the best TREE-tment for your trees, leave it to the professionals! Contact our team at 1300 916 767, and let’s get your trees prepared for winter!