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winter tree care tips

10 Tips for Tree Winter Care By Expert Arborists

10 Winter Tree Care Tips

winter tree care tips

With the winter wonderland quickly approaching, although trees remain dormant during the snowy season they are still vulnerable to cold and dry conditions. Akin to all living organisms which grow, reproduce, and respond to the natural environment, plants and trees experience the stresses of rough winter weather. Although trees may not outrightly showcase their decay as they sway majestically and glisten in the fresh, powdered snow they may be readily in decline from dry roots due to a lack of routine watering which only results in major damage control in the springtime. It may be bleak and gray outside but your tree is not hibernating–it needs you to perform routine checkups. 

We highlight the benefits of participating in a tree winter care experience so your sapling continues to not just bud but eloquently bloom for years to come. As they say from mighty trees acorns grow, and at Legacy Trees, we believe that our customers should opt for only the long-lasting and result-oriented solutions that are bound to return benefits to you in leaps and bounds. As a top-notch Legacy Tree company we of course do all things tree from moving, removal, and supply with skilled Lethbridge arborists and excellent customer service. 

A tree of tranquility brings a peaceful presence to your home, so be sure to have one planted during your next home renovation. In the meantime, let’s learn more about the benefits of tree winter care. Trust us–caring, tending a tree, and watching it grow is a worthwhile experience, and it’s crucial to be mindful of its first few years so it establishes strong and healthy roots to flourish into being a green goddess someday. 


This depends on numerous factors like tree age, climate, and soil condition. A basic rule of thumb is to continue to water regularly through autumn until the ground begins to freeze over, typically in late October and into November. Water acts like a shielded sheath for both the tree as its plant cells become robust with water and will be less exposed to frequent damage from cold, allowing soil to stay warm and moist. Although you can rely on snowmelt leftover from precipitation it’s also a good idea to water at least one to two timers per month until they begin to leaf in early spring. If you live in a more arid climate with a higher wind chill you may need to water slightly more. If your tree is less than a couple of years old it needs lots of water so the roots can be fully established in the soil. So anytime your soil looks dry water your tree for at least 30 seconds. You can gauge moisture levels in the soil by inserting a garden trowel about a couple of inches into the soil and inserting your finger into the hole to see if the soil feels damp. If it’s dry it needs to be watered again. If your tree is at least 2 years old and up the roots will be fully entrenched so doesn’t require as much water to grow, so you can get away with not watering your tree as frequently, except for certain tree species and drier climates. 


Mulch is a material that is applied atop the surface of the soil. It’s made either from organic varieties like dead plants including compost, leaves, bark, or grass clippings, or inorganic varieties like rock, gravel, plastic sheeting, and landscape fabric. Mulch is spread over the surface of soil and its sole purpose is to save water, suppress weed growth and improve the quality of soil around plants by insulating the roots from extreme temperatures and keeping them moist. Plus it’s tasteful for green thumbs as it brightens up your garden by giving it a neat and tidy appearance and even reduces the amount of watering and weeding you have to do. During late Fall, adding a layer of organic mulch protects soil from losing moisture and regulates soil temperature in colder climates. Mulch is also like a safety blanket that stops freezing and thawing which can crack up soil and dry out a tree’s roots. To apply mulch, we recommend utilizing the hat trick 3-3-3 golden rule, be sure to clear any grass or shrubs within 3 feet of your tree, spread at least a 3-inch layer of mulch around your tree, and lastly, leave a 3-inch gap at the base of the trunk to prevent mulch from suffocating your tree

Types Of Mulch: Wood Chips or Straw 

Wood Chips

Our best recommendation is wood chip as it insulates the root system due to gruff texture of the chips. It serves as a blanket that guards the tree against severe freezes and extreme temperatures. Wood chips are not best for annual vegetable or flower beds but are ideal for shrub beds or all-season trees. 


Another great option is that it provides insulation by reducing water evaporation and conserving moisture via its course structure, traps pockets of air that warm soil and shields it from icy winds, plus it’s easier to remove. Similar to a thermos, it works well for both hot and cold as it keeps soil mild during a cold spell and cools soil down during a heatwave. 


If your tree is starting to depict a whomping willow with its branches dangling and dropping every which way it’s time for pruning. Similar to getting a haircut to trim off split ends, it’s crucial to prune branches to allow for new and healthier growth. If your tree’s silhouette doesn’t seem symmetrical you likely have dead branches that need to be cut off. Pruning is when you selectively remove unwanted branches from a tree to encourage new healthy growth and to improve the tree’s structure. Although you can let nature run its course to prune by default, you have to remember that our home’s tree has been transplanted from its natural environment into an artificially-built one. So you have to lend it some help in cutting away dead branches. Typically, the tips of the branches and the union, the location where the branches join together, are the feeble spots that readily snap when placed under pressure. Although it’s good practice to regularly remove dead branches from your tree throughout the year it’s a given during the wintertime. Again if your tree is still in its infancy stage, usually 3 years older or less, only stick to pruning off broken branches so you can allow enough breathing room and space for nutrient absorption and your tree can develop strong roots. After 3 years, feel free to prune off eyesore branches so there is less clash for water and nutrients. Here are some quick steps to pruning.

  1. Locate the dead branch: A lifeless branch will be leafless and bark will be peeling away. We also suggest clipping away any awkward branches that are growing inwards toward the trunk of your tree as it will prevent branches from crisscrossing over each other wrecking the shape of your tree. We recommend purchasing pruning shears or loppers you can purchase from any local home hardware store.

  2. Magnify the branch collar: Surprisingly there is a method to the madness of plant pruning and your tree is no exception. First mark off the area of the branch collar–this is a bulbous area that is directly attached to the trunk or a bigger branch. The branch collar is a tree’s collar tissue jam-packed full of rich nutrients and energy reserves which delay decay of the tree and bolsters the tree’s immune system by sealing up any wounds. Typically this will be a slightly raised mound with a volcano-shaped mid-section of the branch which connects to the rest of the tree.

  3. Make the cut: Make sure you cut your lines exactly where the branch collar ends and the branch begins. Again, ensure you always cut outside the branch collar. If you cut incorrectly it will leave behind a stub in its place which is known to cause disease and pest problems.

  4. Weed off: It’s also best to remove any sprouts from the base of your tree as these thin shoots can steal water and nutrients from the rest of the tree and are pretty much just like a leech. Take a pair of handy pruning shears and clip off sprouts as close to the soil as you can, and if the sprouts are too thick and rigid, invest in loppers to cut them instead.


It seems obvious to do this after yet another snowfall, but many incorrectly assume that meltwater from snow will be a light and refreshing drink for your parched tree. But that’s bogus! Snow does indeed help insulate more delicate roots to a certain extent, especially from harsh winds and freezing temperatures, plus as a bonus soaks soil for the upcoming spring flush when buds finally bloom in kaleidoscopic colours. But too much snow can work against your tree and extra water can cause root rot due to soil being waterlogged. As a result, your tree will suffocate from a lack of oxygen, its roots will begin to die off and lose their vitality. Plus piled-up snow can attract pesky rodents who nest and nibble inside the bark of your tree and branches.


Let’s face it your tree can use some TLC so think of this as a comfortable throw blanket for your tree. There are two main reasons to wrap a tree. Firstly, it stops heavy snow from breaking or bending branches, and secondly, it protects fragile leaves and buds from ice damage. This terrible ice damage will be evident in Spring when the tips of certain branches fail to leaf out compared to others that do. The best material for a tree wrap should be made from a breathable material including burlap, tarp, or Kraft paper, or for extra protection, you can use plastic tree guards. For extra protection, you can use frame stakes to reduce the contact between the cover and tree foliage. 

Check For Cracks 

If during your daily commute you hear strange sounds like popping noises it could be because the tree trunk has frozen over and split open to reveal its fibres. Eventually, these will become like scars and remain permanently visible during winter. Although cracks camouflage come springtime, they are still a good indicator of your tree’s health. Like a detective checking for both frost cracks, which are vertical, and horizontal cracks. Frost cracks are harmless and pose no serious danger to your tee and can usually be left as is. Horizontal cracks however that run and extend through your tree trunk are severe and you should ask a professional arborist for assistance.


Curious critters that decided not to hole up during winter can show up foraging for scarce food, everything from mice, rabbits, and squirrels. But there are some clever tactics to deter them and we’re not talking about a Jack Frost-like Scarecrow either. For mice, for example, leave a space between the mulch and the trunk of the tree and set out some delicious bait. And for rabbits, it’s always a good idea to install mesh enclosures.

Ice Melt 

Also known as snow or rock salt, sprinkling some of this stuff melts snow and ice into slush by lowering the freezing point of water and breaking up the solid ice molecules into liquid. We don’t recommend using the conventional version of rock salt that contains sodium chloride as it will interfere with the tree root’s ability to readily absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients.

Types of Ice Melt 

Instead opt for products that have calcium, potassium, or magnesium chloride. For example, calcium chloride ice melt is the best substitute for regular rock salt as it’s less expensive, readily melts at lower temperatures, and is the safest choice for lawns and natural landscapes.


This is a type of pesticide that is sprayed on trees to help preserve their evergreen foliage during dry winters. When trees are dormant during the wintertime they reduce the amount of water in their internal tissues as they are not actively growing. A thick layer of spray will cover leaves with a waxy coating and reduce moisture loss.


Although there are numerous brands on the market it depends on your species of tree and we recommend not buying anything with larger amounts of quick-release nitrogen. Regular nitrogen-based fertilizers work well. Although the best time to begin fertilizing in early spring, a moderate to light fertilizer application throughout the year can encourage plant growth.

Looking For Tree Winter Care Services? 

A tree brings a sense of blissfulness to your yard and you should be mindful that it will not remain an everlasting plant without proper nurturing. Our knowledgeable, experienced, and friendly team at Legacy Trees is devoted to providing our local community with picturesque scenery.