By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Winter tree care is important.
That’s the message this fall from Jorden Holst, agricultural fieldman for the Municipal District of Taber.
“Winter tree care is vital for the health and resilience of trees and shrubs, especially in harsh climates like southern Alberta. Extreme cold, dry winds, limited sunlight, and threats from wildlife, salt, snow, and ice can significantly impact their survival. Taking proactive measures helps minimize damage and ensures trees and shrubs can thrive during the challenging winter months.”
Holst says that trees and shrubs left uncared for in winter face various risks, including dehydration, cold damage, root injuries, wildlife browsing, and salt exposure. Neglected plants, Holst says, are more susceptible to stress, diseases, pest infestations, and reduced vitality and this neglect could lead to stunted growth, dieback, or even death in severe cases.
Holst says that caring for trees in winter involves several crucial steps.
1) Species Selection: Choosing tree species adapted to Alberta’s cold hardiness zones
2) Proper Watering: Ensuring adequate fall watering before the soil freezes to prevent winter drought
3) Protection Measures: Using mulch, plastic guards, and mesh wire to shield trees from harsh conditions, sunscald, wildlife, and salt damage
4) Pruning: Performing proper pruning to reduce the risk of branch breakage during snow or ice storms
5) Root Protection: Providing deep watering, mulching, and inspecting for soil cracks to protect roots from freezing.
“Maintaining healthy soil during winter is crucial for tree health,” said Holst. “Deep watering before freeze, mulching, leaving fallen leaves for nutrients, and avoiding excessive salt use are some ways to preserve soil quality. Snow acts as insulation, protecting soil and roots, while mulch helps retain moisture and regulates soil temperature.”
Holst states that the M.D. of Taber does not have explicit bylaws concerning tree care, but the municipality values trees’ crucial role within the community.
“Apart from enhancing our environment, trees contribute to a picturesque landscape and serve as effective shelterbelts, safeguarding against soil erosion caused by the strong winds prevalent in southern Alberta,” said Holst.
Holst says that those interested in the M.D. of Taber’s Shelterbelt Program can visit: https://www.mdtaber.ab.ca/p/shelterbelt
In addition to that, Holst says, the M.D. of Taber Ag Services team can provide valuable assistance and resources for winter tree care such as focusing on selecting hardy tree species, winter watering techniques, protective measures against cold damage, wildlife deterrents, salt damage prevention, and overall winter tree maintenance strategies. For more information, Holst says, people can contact the Ag Services team at 403-223-8735 or visit the website at https://www.mdtaber.ab.ca/p/winter-tree-care
“In addition to these practices, regular monitoring and adaptation to changing weather conditions are key. Always consider seeking guidance from local horticultural experts or our Ag Services team for region-specific advice on winter tree care,” said Holst. “Adapting and combining these strategies based on individual tree species and local climate conditions can greatly enhance the survival and vitality of trees and shrubs during winter in southern Alberta.”