Prevent winter injury to plants
By Ray Ridlen
Plants often suffer during winter months despite their dormant condition. Trees and shrubs are exposed to and frequently endure many forms of damage during winter conditions.
Sun-scald is one type of injury a tree might suffer. This is caused by rapidly changing temperatures which can kill living tissues beneath the bark. Usually, the south side of the tree is affected due to the winter sun warming the bark.
Damage may be caused by excessive loads of ice or snow which result in severe breakage of trees and shrubs.
Frost cracks, another type of injury, are vertical separations of bark and wood and commonly occur on the south or southwest sides of trees. Deciduous trees are more susceptible than evergreens.
Direct freezing of buds, twigs, or roots may occur primarily during periods of extreme and rapid fluctuations in temperatures. Spring flowering trees and shrubs, as well as peach, nectarine and apricot trees, are susceptible to this kind of damage.
Winter desiccation causes most of the damage to evergreens such as pine, spruces, arborvitae, juniper, rhododendron. Evergreen plants lose water from their leaves even though they are dormant in the winter. This loss may be increased by drying winds or bright sunny days. When the soil is frozen, plant roots are unable to absorb sufficient moisture to replace that lost form the leaves or needles, resulting in damage to them.
Salt damage may occur on trees and shrubs growing near streets, sidewalks or driveways when excessive amounts of salt are used to remove ice.
Steps should be taken to guard trees and shrubs against injury. Make sure the soil has sufficient water so trees and shrubs continue to have ample soil moisture through winter months.
Prune out any injured or diseased branches or dead limbs, but do not do any radical pruning.
Tree trunks, especially those of young trees, or trees with smooth bark, should be wrapped with burlap, sisal kraft paper, or other tree wrapping materials to prevent sun-scald.
When snow fall comes, use salt sparingly on sidewalks and driveways which are near trees and shrubs.