The cold winter months may seem like a time when trees are resting but they are still hard at work under that appearance of dormancy. Roots will continue to grow as long as ground temperatures are moderate. To support root growth leave fallen leaves on the ground to provide your tree with natural mulch, just like you would find on the forest floor. If you can’t leave fallen leaves on the ground, consider running them over with the lawn mower to chop them up into smaller pieces. If that doesn’t work for you, at least make sure your trees have a 3″ layer of wood mulch around them to protect the roots from temperature fluctuations, to hold moisture in the soil, and to improve soil structure. Just don’t let leaves or mulch pile up against the trunk – that can lead to decay.
Winter dormancy is a great time to plant trees and it’s the best time to prune most trees in Central Texas. Before you grab the saw and the pruners, take the time to ask yourself “Why am I pruning these trees?” Keep these goals in mind:
- Remove dead and diseased wood. Make sure you can tell the difference between a dead branch and a live one during the winter (scratch the limb with your thumbnail if you aren’t sure – if it’s alive it will be green.)
- Remove branches that are rubbing against a building or hanging low over a walkway or street.
- Remove crossing branches that rub together and create wounds.
Pruning for any other reason should be kept to a minimum. Consult your favorite tree care book or our Native Tree Growing Guide for Central Texas to learn how to make a proper pruning cut.
We are still in the midst of a prolonged drought in Central Texas and your trees need water even though it’s not hot outside. Remember to water young or newly planted trees at least every 2 weeks and give mature trees a slow, deep watering each month that we don’t get a decent rain. The trees will thank you come spring!
Tree Tips by Colleen Dieter, Owner of Red Wheelbarrow Landscape Consulting