Will Trees Survive the Cold and Ice Storm Damage?

Evergreens in winter during polar vortex January 2014The debilitating ice storm damage at the end of last year has kept our tree service crews working at a steady pace well into this month, even in this frigid weather. Ice, snow and record low temperatures threatened to run winter break right into spring break. While no one asked for a winter system with the ferocious abandon of a polar vortex, we can all agree, better the unseasonable cold weather now than in the spring.

One doesn’t have to be human to agree with that. Step out into nature (or your backyard) and ask that favorite bush or tree. What you will hear is a frost in late spring and early summer is actually much more stressful than the extreme freezing conditions of the dormant season.

“Trees are already dormant, so the polar freeze will have little long-term effect,” according to certified master arborist, R.J. Laverne of Davey’s Tree Expert Company. “Nothing can be done now to protect tress, but good fall care can help trees withstand winter’s harshest conditions.”

A large snowfall actually benefits trees the most during a polar freeze. Snow cover insulates the root systems naturally.

While many trees will avoid long-term damage from the polar freeze, residents may still find debris to clean-up and branches that will need trimming in the spring from the previous storm damage. Give Ayles Tree Service a call when you are ready we have been providing expert tree service to Mid Michigan and Eaton county residents and businesses for over 50 years.

Fall work such as watering and mulching help prepare and buffer trees from the frigid temperatures. It also provides a gradual, more natural indoctrination into cooler temperatures, as well as a growing storage of water.

The polar vortex will go away, right Mr. Freeze (alias Vincent Price)? When it does there will be things to watch for with your favorite trees.

  1. Winter Burn or desiccation injury occurs when trees cannot absorb enough water to keep up with the amount of moisture leaves lose. Most prominent with evergreen trees and shrubs because they continue to evaporate existing moisture in the wind-water that cannot be replaced from the frozen soil below.
  2. Frost cracks typically affects thin-barked trees. This occurs when temperature differential between sun-warmed bark and super cold airs magnified.
  3. Soil heaving happens when the soil alternates between freezing and thawing, pushing the shallow perennial plant roots out above the ground surface, exposing them to cold and dry wind.

Trees and shrubs native to the region they are growing usually fare better than those that have migrated from other regions, according to Laverne. Come spring trees that did not make it through the storm damage and harsh winter will need to be removed and in some cases replaced. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer and feel more comfortable hiring an expert, tree removal, planting, and tree transplanting plus stump removal are services Ayles Tree Service can help you with.

The Polar Vortex, however, will likely have an effect on this year’s fruit crops. Most apple and pear trees are able to endure a zone five winter with below zero temps, although, peach trees are less tolerant, according to Lake County Purdue Extension Educator Nikky Witkowski, she adds that blueberry and blackberry plants should be okay as the snow covering insulated plants from the cold temperatures.

It will be be spring before it is known what plants were damaged by the extreme cold and wind and the ice storm damage. For some trees and shrubs, we may see no leaves and some branch dieback. Unfortunately, perennials may not show up at all – a cold weather victim of this recordĀ  book winter season.

A frigid, wet winter makes for a busy spring clearing the debris for residents and tree service companies like Ayles. Fortunately, many residents with storm damage are covered by insurance, of which, Ayles has worked with most over the many years. Stay warm!