Tips to Prepare Trees for Winter

Even though urban trees across Oklahoma are now going dormant, they still need care before and during the winter to remain in the best of health. “As difficult as this past summer was for our urban trees, the recent drought makes it even more important to prepare our trees for winters cold and to continue watering them during drier periods over the next several months,” said Mark Bays, urban forestry coordinator for Oklahoma Forestry Services. He emphasizes that recently planted and younger trees require the most care to ensure their health.

Oklahoma Forestry Services offers the following tips to prepare urban trees for winter:

• Consider wrapping the trunk of some young trees. In Oklahoma, thin-barked trees like maple and redbud may be susceptible to sunscald and frost cracks because of the drastic temperature fluctuations in fall and winter. To prevent bark damage, guard the trunks of younger trees up to the first branches using commercial tree wrap. Leave the wrap on until March.

• Mulch around the trunk. Apply 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch near the base of the tree, but not against it, and under its branches to reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption and insulate the roots against temperature extremes. Check your community recycling program, as some programs provide wood chips or compost free of charge.

• Recycle leaves. Instead of disposing of fallen leaves, shred them and consider layering them around each tree as natural mulch, or blend them into the yard with a mulching mower to retain nutrients.

• Prune conservatively. Late winter is often the best time for pruning many tree species, but it can be done whenever trees are dormant over the winter months as well. Common reasons for pruning are to remove dead branches and improve form. Always prune at the branch collar – the point where a branch joins a larger one – and don’t remove any branches without good reason.

• Give them a good drink. Slowly water each tree in the area from just outside the trunk to the extent of the longest branches. It’s important to make sure the water penetrates deeply into the soil rather than running off the surface. Water trees at the rate of 10 gallons per inch of diameter every 2-3 weeks throughout the winter unless you receive significant precipitation or snow during that time. The best time for winter watering is on warmer days, when the temperature is above 40 degrees.

For more information about urban tree care, visit the Oklahoma Forestry Services website at or call 405-522-6158.