During the winter months we tend to not worry much about our plants, but a great deal of damage can occur to them during the winter. A couple of the problems we often see in the winter would be sunscald and winter desiccation. Many of these problems may not even be noticed until the spring months and we can help prevent some of them during the fall.
Sunscald is a common problem on young trees and thin barked trees such as maples. We may notice discolored bark, cracks, or sunken areas, in the trunk of the tree and bark falling off of those trees. It is commonly found on the south and west sides of the tree and is therefore also referred to as southwest disease.
There is no cure for the tree once it develops sunscald, but many trees will heal this damaged area. Because this is an opening in the tree, other problems with insects and diseases can affect the tree. Sunscald is a problem that is easily prevented by using a tree wrap around young and thin barked trees from late fall through early spring. Also, many of our trees that are affected by sunscald are drought stressed, so maintain adequate moisture to your trees throughout the year and ensure that they go into the winter well watered to help prevent sunscald.
Winter desiccation commonly occurs on evergreen types of trees and shrubs. All trees are still transpiring, or losing water, throughout the winter months, evergreen trees are transpiring at a higher rate than deciduous trees. Winter desiccation occurs when the amount of water lost is greater than the amount of water the evergreen takes in throughout the winter months. The branches and needles of our trees will die. The damage from winter desiccation is brown needles out on the ends of branches. However, the damage from winter desiccation will not usually show up in our trees until early spring, so they will stay green through the winter.
The management for winter desiccation is to ensure adequate watering throughout the entire growing season. Make sure that the tree is well watered going into the fall. Also, water throughout the winter when the ground is not frozen to help the trees through a dry winter, if necessary. Winter watering should occur during the day on days when the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above and is only necessary 1-2 times per month until spring. You can prune the dead branches and brown needles off of the tree, but wait until after new growth has begun, so you can see which parts of the branches are dead.