Winter Tree Care

By Dave Pojmann

As we close one of the driest years on record, it’s time to think about the trees and bushes in our landscapes. Although the leaves have fallen, the roots of the trees are still active, and they need water to stay healthy. Young trees are especially vulnerable to winter damage if they don’t have enough water. A heavy soaking every three or four weeks is preferable to more frequent light watering. The water should be applied around the drip line of the tree rather than the trunk, and it should soak to a depth of about ten inches. A soaker hose is a good tool for this purpose, or a sprinkler will also do the job.

This month is also a good opportunity to examine our trees for mistletoe. It will show up green against the brown bark now that the leaves are gone. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that will weaken a tree and make it more vulnerable to insects and diseases. The most effective measure is to remove the infested branch, but if that will ruin the shape or purpose of the tree, the next best approach is to rub off the exposed parts of the plant, and then wrap black elastic electrical tape around the bulbous part of the branch where the mistletoe roots are located. Use only a single overlapping layer of tape. The tape will cut off light and air to the mistletoe, and hopefully, kill it. As the tree grows, the tape will stretch and eventually fall off. For infections high in the tree, or on main branches, it’s best to call a professional arborist to handle it. Mistletoe is spread by birds eating the berries, and then excreting the seeds on other trees. It’s a neighborhood concern, not just an individual matter. You may want to join with neighbors for a “package deal” to reduce the cost of professional management