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Winter Tree Care – Feeding, Mulching and Pruning

There are lots of myths when it comes to trees and “winterizing” your trees. We are lucky here in East Tennessee that, like our football team, our trees are pretty hardy and may surprise you. However, if you are compelled to do some winter yard work, keep these simple tips in mind:

1.You don’t have to “feed” your trees if you let fallen leaves lie.

If you leave your fallen foliage on the ground and don’t rake it up, the leaves will decompose and their nutrients will go back into the earth and continue to feed your tree in its natural cycle. If you don’t like the way your yard looks covered in leaves or if you are required by your HOA to remove them, that is OK too. You can feed your trees every five years or so and they will continue to thrive as if you’ve left their beloved leaves on the ground.

Below are some instructions for feeding your trees. You should note that the best time to feed your trees is at the end of the year, before December 31st, ideally. If you decide to feed your trees in the first couple weeks of January, your trees probably won’t mind a bit, or you can save the instructions until the end of this year. Again, this doesn’t have to be done every year, just once every five years unless your trees have been particularly stressed throughout the year by drought, heat, construction nearby, or old age.

Tree Feeding Instructions:

Walk out from the trunk to the end of the limbs (drip line)

Follow the drip line around the tree drilling holes 6-8 inches deep with a 1-2 inch bulb auger

Fill holes up with 6-12-12 fertilizer

Make a complete circle

Once the circle is complete, step out (not inward) 2 feet and repeat that same process (drilling holes 6-8 inches deep, filling with fertilizer)

2. You only need to mulch smaller plants.

You can place mulch around the base of your plants. Smaller plants may even need it to keep warm in the winter, but your larger trees don’t usually need mulch around them. If you decide to put mulch on the trunks of your trees, make sure you place the mulch around the tree in a donut-like fashion versus building the next great pyramid at the base of your tree. Piling too much mulch up around your tree will trick the tree into thinking that it needs to “root” there and you will get girdling roots, which restrict the movement of water and other nutrients necessary for the survival of the tree and aren’t very pretty to look at.

If you do place mulch around your smaller plants, make sure that you don’t suffocate them with too much mulch and don’t forget to remove the mulch in the spring. Mulching should serve only to keep your plants protected during severe cold.

3. Winter tree pruning is not for your “honey do” list

In the winter, trees become dormant and, to put it simply, dormant trees need nothing. They are basically the same as hibernating bears, so they don’t typically need watered, mulched, or fed if you live in East Tennessee, but when they wake up, they will be hungry for all the nutrients and sunlight they can get. And they will need a trim before they awake to make sure they can absorb those nutrients.

Winter is a great time to prune trees, but unless you know a thing or two about pruning trees, you may do more harm than good. While it is easy to spot low hanging limbs and twisted ugly branches, it’s not as easy to spot dead limbs over thriving limbs once your tree has lost its leaves. And it’s definitely not so easy to get to them if they are up high. So as you are walking around your property looking at your trees and the work you will need to do in the next couple of months, now would be a good time to make a list and give us a call to get your appointment for late winter/ early spring tree trimming and pruning. We’ve got certified arborists and knowledgeable crews that will get your trees looking their very best before the first leaf appears and then you can add something even better to your “honey do” list- like cleaning out that overstuffed garage.

Don’t wait until the last minute because those leaves will be appearing before you know it. You can reach our office at 865-690-7474 and get scheduled for a free assessment and estimate by East Tennessee’s best tree service.

And remember, at Mencer’s, we go out on a limb for you!

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