Spruce up Austin reaching out

Published 10:05 am Thursday, October 7, 2010

Doctor Phil can’t help. Neither can Doctor Oz.

Forget Oprah and don’t blame this situation on President Obama. He has nothing to do with it.

Winter is coming and trees will need protection.

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Just as Mother Nature giveth, she also takes.

Particularly vulnerable to the elements are those seedlings planted to replace trees lost in the 2009 tornado storms, but there are other trees and shrubs that will need special attention, when the last leaf has fallen and freezing temperatures, snow, ice and wind will test their endurance until spring.

Resources are out there. The city’s own Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department can help. For its two decades of existence Spruce Up Austin, Inc. has partnered with the Austin PRF to plant trees in public places and to implement maintenance programs to ensure their growth.

The Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory organization has been a partner, also.

Local nurseries have their own experts.

Some serious attention needs to be paid the risks involved when the seasons change again in December.

“While your trees seem to be in a state of hibernation in the winter, exposure to the tough conditions can cause them major stress,” said Jim Skiera, executive director of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). “Minimize that stress by helping your trees through the cold months, a little at a time. If you take care of your trees in the winter, you’ll be rewarded in the spring.”

This expert’s list of tree protection tips includes:

1. Put composted organic mulch under your tree in the fall or early winter to help retain water and reduce temperature extremes. A thin layer of mulch will act like a blanket and give the tree’s roots a little extra winter protection.

2. Give your trees a drink. Winter droughts require watering as much as summer droughts. If temperatures permit, an occasional watering during the winter on young trees can be a lifesaver. But be sure to water only when soil and trees are cool but not frozen.

3. Prune your trees. Winter is actually one of the best times to prune because it is easier to see the structure of trees without their leaves. But limit pruning to deadwood and poorly placed branches in order to save as many living branches as possible.

4. Prevent mechanical injuries. Branch breakage or splitting can be caused by ice and snow accumulation, or chewing and rubbing by animals. Prevent problems from occurring on young trees by wrapping the base of trees in a hard, plastic guard or a metal hardware cloth. Wrapping trees with burlap or plastic cloth also can prevent temperature damage. Just remember to remove the wraps and guards in the spring to prevent damage when the tree begins to grow.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research around the world. Headquartered in Champaign, Ill., ISA is dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees. For more information, contact a local ISA Certified Arborist or visit www.isa-arbor.com.

(Spruce Up Austin, Inc. is now in its 21st year of existence. The community betterment organization’s motto is “Deeply rooted in Austin’s future.”)