While winter in many parts of California could qualify as a pleasant spring day in the rest of the nation, this season does affect trees in California. Shortened days and lowered temperatures contribute to a period of reduced growth or even dormancy. During this time, trees may suffer increased vulnerability to certain types of stress. Here are a few things you can do to not only help your trees survive the winter, but also prepare them to flourish when spring comes.
Pruning is vital for the overall, year-round health of your trees, and the ideal time to do it is in winter, when trees have slowed their metabolic processes or entered dormancy. They won’t miss the lost leaves as much, and the colder temperatures will help reduce the likelihood of infection. If you have fruit trees, winter pruning is vital to ensure that spring fruit production will be optimal. Pruning also offers the chance to remove dead or damaged branches, which would be vulnerable to breakage under the high winds of winter storms.
Winter is a great time to feed your trees with fertilizers specifically designed to encourage root growth. Trees need sturdy, well-developed root systems, both to help anchor them so they can withstand high winter winds, and to help them combat the increased difficulty of absorbing water during winter conditions.
In general, trees require less water during the winter. However, you still have to keep an eye on them, particularly in times of winter drought. If you notice that you haven’t had any precipitation in a while, you should give your trees a light watering. Do not overwater, as soggy conditions can lead to rot or mold.
Different types of trees require different types and levels of winter protection. For example, tropical palms need to be wrapped in burlap or tree blankets to guard against very low temperatures. Caring for young trees in winter is especially important, as they have not yet developed the strength and tolerance for temperature fluctuation that older trees have. Almost any tree can benefit from a layer of mulch or extra soil around its base, which will help insulate the roots as well as retain moisture. Remember that your preparations need to be temperature-sensitive, not date-sensitive. If you have a false spring, you may need to uncover or unwrap your trees while temperatures are high, and then rewrap them when temperatures drop again.
The very best way to ensure that your trees survive the winter and flourish in the spring is to consult a tree service professional, who can give you advice tailored to your particular location for each individual tree in your yard.