Most people don't think much about their yard in winter, but there are several seasonal issues that can damage your trees. Fortunately, most of the problems can be avoided simply by knowing what they are.
1. Snow Load Concerns
Heavy snow can weigh down branches, which can cause trees to sag or even begin to split apart. Any tree can be affected, but evergreens are more prone to snow accumulation. Sweeping downward on branches to relieve the snow load can break them, though. If you must remove some of the snow, then carefully use a broom to gently sweep upward. This knocks off the snow without putting any further downward pressure on the branches.
2. Winter Drought Issues
Deciduous trees go completely dormant in the winter, so long dry periods don't harm them. Evergreens, on the other hand, only go semi-dormant. If there are long dry periods where temperatures remain above freezing, evergreens may even suffer drought stress. Providing a small amount of water when there is no rain or snow cover can keep the trees healthy.
3. Windburn and Exposure
Another issue that primarily affects evergreens is windburn and wind exposure. Trees that are directly in the line of winter winds can become desiccated and damaged by the time the season ends. Wrapping susceptible trees in burlap or a tree wrap provides protection. Trees should not remain under wraps once the main thaw begins in late winter, though. Your tree service can provide guidance for the ideal wrapping period for your particular region.
4. Light Display Mistakes
Holiday lights make the yard festive, but they can damage trees. Only use outdoor-rated lights to avoid fire risks. LED lights are better than incandescent as they produce nearly no heat, so there's no concern about scorching needles or bare branches. Avoid wrapping lights around young trees or those with brittle branches, and never wrap a tree so tightly that the branches are bent or stressed.
5. Animal Feeding Damage
During extreme cold or periods of deep snow cover, animals like deer and squirrels will chew off the bark of trees to reach the nutritious cambium layer. Bark damage from animal feeding leaves trees open to diseases, and too much feeding can actually kill a tree. There are trunk guards that can be placed around the trunk to protect the trees during winter if animal feeding is a risk in your area.
Contact a residential tree care service if you are concerned about the health of your tree this winter.