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Looking after your trees in winter

Cold Weather Stress

The storms, ice and rapid temperature fluctuations above and below zero temperatures characteristic of winter weather take their toll on trees across many parts of the UK especially here in Scotland. Species of tree native to colder regions, this is a stressful time.  

This is particularly true for the exposed and isolated trees of the residential gardens.  Some of this stress is unavoidable and the average gardener has little control over the ower climate.
However, there are things that you can do to minimize the damage caused by the stresses of winter.

Cold stresses take a number of forms. Temperature variations can lead to stresses within the tree between the outer bark and inner wood leading to cracks called frost cracking.

How to tackle it

In most situations, there is very little that can be done to prevent frost cracking and the tree may able to repair itself although the cracked area remains vulnerable and subsequent cracking at the same place can cause major damage. The gardener may consider wrapping the bark to protect further damage.

Other winter issues

The impact of sudden early frosts on late growth makes trees vulnerable because it does not have the same time as established growth to prepare for cold.
Ice crystals can rupture the cell walls on the new branches leading to die-off the following season.

How to tackle this

You should avoid pruning until after the tree has gone into dormancy in the Autumn.

Pruning too soon might encourage new growth and increase the risk of frost damage. 
Also, avoid using fertilizers with high amounts of Nitrogen as this will keep the tree growing but a winter feed can be beneficial.