Do our trees sleep through winter?
November 25, 2014
This is a complicated question that we can offer up a simple answer to: No, our trees don’t actually ever go to sleep completely! In winter, many trees will drop their leaves and slow their growth; but they always maintain a basic level of function. In fall, trees have an internal mechanism that assesses the change in weather and daylength. Their internal biological clock tells them it’s time to slow their growth and shut down phytosynthesis (in deciduous trees) in preparation for winter. We typically refer to this state as “dormancy”. However, dormancy doesn’t mean trees are completely asleep; roots are still growing and taking in water and nutrients. Evergreen trees will still photosynthesize, although that does slow down significantly.
Trees still need maintenance and attention through winter.
Even in winter, when trees appear to be “asleep” they still need our care and attention. Watering, feeding and pruning are all part of winter care that ensures healthy vigorous trees. Think of your tree as an extension of your family! With all they do to improve our home and urban life, we can’t afford to neglect them during what can be dry winter months.
Now is when we feed the soil to keep it active and healthy so that roots are better able to uptake the nutrients we feed to our trees in spring. Aerating the soil in winter and doing basework around the roots to expose the flare will help boost the oxygenation of roots and the overall structural integrity of your tree. When soil becomes compacted it keeps roots from receiving enough oxygen and they can suffocate. Over time this will cause the tree extreme stress and eventual death.
Winter is the time to prune live and red oaks. Winter is an excellent time to prune oak trees. Why? Because the destructive disease called oak wilt spreads rapidly in spring; open pruning wounds created in spring and summer allow for infection. After trees have dropped their leaves, it’s a good time to prune away dead wood and improve the structural shape and integrity of the tree. This will also encourage new, strong growth come spring.
It’s not summer, but your trees still get thirsty. Winter months in North Texas can often be dry. If we’re getting regular rainfall, then your trees will be ok. However it’s easy to have several dry weeks in a row; if we do, you should water your trees. Set out rain gages so you always know how much rain we receive. 1” per week is always a good target.
Posted: November 25, 2014