This winter is putting stress on trees in the Chippewa Valley

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

The lack of snow may reduce your stress level because you don't have to worry about shoveling. But experts say those trees in your yard could have a rough time because of extreme temperature fluctuations. The lack of snow has some concerned that moisture levels will not be adequate to support healthy plant growth this spring.

Evergreens can persevere through the worst a Wisconsin winter has to offer, but the drier than normal weather the past month has some experts concerned.

"There's a need for high moisture content for evergreens to survive and come through the winter very healthy, and a year like this if the soil is not frozen the tree can enter spring with a deficit of moisture in the root system," says Todd Chwala, superintendent of Forestry for Eau Claire.

We're running a deficit of more than 15 inches of snow so far this winter and the trees depend heavily on a snow pack.

"With the lack of snowfall that insulation effect that the blanket of snow would give to the root systems there may be some root die back as well in a year like this typically." Chwala recommends putting down two to four inches of mulch around the base of your tree.

"By putting that mulch down now you're helping keep a consistent temperature," explains Erin LaFaive with UW-Extension.

A common problem that UW-Extension is seeing this winter is for south facing trees like this one. The heat up a great deal during the day because of the sun beating down on them, but at night they cool off very rapidly, and that stress can create cracks within the bark.

"If you have an open area on your trunk of the tree and then in the summer and spring, when the disease and the insects become active that's when it's a nice opening for them to get in there so they can cause further problems," says LaFaive.

She recommends covering the problem area each winter with tinfoil or burlap. They also recommend watering your trees up until ground freezes in the fall to ensure a reserve of moisture in the spring.

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  • by schoyt Location: chippcty on Feb 8, 2012 at 08:58 AM
    You cannot control MOTHER NATURE
  • by Anonymous on Feb 8, 2012 at 07:59 AM
    I wish I had nothing better to worry about than the health of my trees!
  • by Hogan Location: The Back of Beyond on Feb 8, 2012 at 06:35 AM
    This is not the Rocky Mts. Snow pack has little impact on our ground water. More important are rains in spring once the ground thaws. Most snow runs off the still frozen ground into rivers and heads to the Mississippi River or Great Lakes in WI. Case in point, near record to record snows across the state three and four winters ago, yet we were still in a drought once spring hit. Also more dangerous to trees would be getting weeks on end of below zero temperatures. This seems to resemble disinformation that keeps creeping in that if Wisconsin is not below zero for three months with five feet of snow on the ground we are all doomed.
    • reply
      by Jimmy on Feb 8, 2012 at 08:13 AM in reply to Hogan
      You killed it.
  • by anonymous Location: Eau Claire on Feb 7, 2012 at 04:21 PM
    Good story, lots of good tips.
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