How to Care for Trees in Winter

Storms, ice and rapid temperature fluctuations can take their toll on trees in Central Texas. Sure, we may not get a lot of ice, but recently we’ve had a cold snap and we’re not even out of December yet. Exposed and isolated trees on your landscape can face certain stressors during the winter that you may not even be aware of. Don’t despair! There are things you can do to help your trees survive the winter and flourish come spring.


There are a variety of cold stresses a tree can face. One of the main ones is the rapid change in temperature from day to night. The temperature variations can lead to stresses within the tree between the outer bark and the inner wood. These could cause frost cracks. Usually, you can’t do much to prevent frost cracking. In many cases, the tree can repair itself even though the area remains vulnerable. Subsequent cracking in the same place can cause major damage so be careful. In the case of young trees and tropicals, you might want to wrap the tree as part of your maintenance procedure.

Early Frosts & Late Growth

Late season tree growth is vulnerable because it has less time to establish itself than earlier seasonal growth. It just doesn’t have the same timeframe to prepare itself for the cold than earlier growth does. Sometimes, ice crystals can rupture cell walls on new branches, leading them to die off in the following season. The best way to avoid this is to stop pruning until the tree goes into dormancy in the fall. Pruning too soon can encourage new growth and increase your risk of frost damage. You will also want to avoid fertilizers with high amounts of quick-release Nitrogen. Yes, your trees can benefit from fall fertilization, but it’s best to know which ones to avoid.

Winter Drought

Sometimes, drying out can be a real problem, especially if there is not a lot of precipitation. In Central Texas, we usually have some wet stuff in the winter, but it’s important to keep your trees from losing more water than they can absorb from the frozen or cold ground. A frozen ground but a sun-warmed tree can be a problem as can windy conditions. There’s no sure-fire solution to winter drought. However, if you lay down a layer of thick, organic mulch around the tree in late fall or early winter, you can help slow down moisture loss and runoff. The mulch also acts as a temperature buffer for the roots.

Branches Breaking

Your tree’s branches are more susceptible to breakage during the winter. This is especially true for deciduous trees. The wood will harden and becomes just a tinge more brittle and vulnerable to wind damage. The key to eliminating branches from breaking lies in good fall maintenance such as pruning. Pruning weak and vulnerable branches can make the entire tree less likely to face this issue. For small trees, you could consider covering them with a sturdy tent-like house of some sort. For bigger trees, you may want to use a rope to tie up and reinforce the branches.

Winter Checklist

  1. It’s best to use trees that are native to your region. This will reduce the overall stress on the tree during the colder months.
  2. You should maintain good tree upkeep throughout the year. Strong and healthy trees will always have it easier than those that are not well cared for.
  3. It’s proper to prone only after a tree has gone into its dormancy. Your certified arborist at Austin Tree Service can help you determine when that is.
  4. You can apply a good fall fertilizer that promotes root, not branch, growth.
  5. Lay down a layer of mulch around the base of your trees to keep them safe from the vicissitudes or temperature and moisture. Don’t forget to leave a space between the mulch and the trunk. This will discourage rodents for making your trees a home in the winter.

If you have any questions or concerns about this topic, please feel free to visit our website at or call us at 512-341-8888.


How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

tree4Okay. You did it. You brought home your real Christmas tree. Now, you need to know how to take care it. If you take proper care of a real Christmas tree, it can last for about a month. The first thing to do is to get a fresh Christmas tree. We talked a lot about tree selection in this article, so feel free to re-read it now.

Once you select the proper real Christmas tree, put it in a plastic tarp to get it home. Once the tree is home, you should saw a couple of inches off the bottom of the trunk before you set the real Christmas tree in some water. Why? When trees are cut, some pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing off the base, you will open up the pores so the tree will be able to absorb the water.

As for water, watering the real Christmas tree is critical. Did you know a freshly-cut tree can consume a gallon of water in about 24 hours? Yes, it can. You should fill the tree stand and check it regularly to make sure it stays filled so your tree always has a resource of water. You don’t want the water to go down to the level with the tree’s base, or the tree can dry out. Many stands need to be topped off daily with more water. Please don’t forget to keep your tree watered. Without doing so, you can end up with a dried out tree that’s a fire hazard. It probably won’t last until Christmas, either.

Some people feed their trees with corn syrup or sugar, but we haven’t found anything to suggest that this is helpful. Water is the vital element to keeping your real Christmas tree alive, not aspirin or anything else that people come up with. If it works for you, you can certainly try it. As we mentioned, there is no evidence to suggest that it’s helpful or not.

You should place the tree in a safe space. Keep it away from heating ducts or other heating sources. The lower the temperature the tree is located in, the better it is for the tree. You’ll also want to avoid direct contact with sunlight for the tree. You can use a room humidifier. It can help the needles stay fresher longer and reduce fire risk.

With regards to a fire risk, you should make sure that any lights that you put on your real Christmas tree are in good working order and designed for this purpose. LED holiday lights are especially good for a real Christmas tree. They cost only pennies a season to run and decrease fire risk because they stay cooler than other types of lights. Please – and this should go without saying – keep any open flames away from the tree.

We sure hope these tips will help you care for a real Christmas tree. If real is what you want, then you’ve got to take the time and effort to care for your Christmas tree. We are not experts on Christmas trees, but we wanted to share this information with you to help you get through the season with your real Christmas trees.

If you have questions or concerns about tree care in general, please feel free to give our office a call at 512-341-8888. We look forward to talking with you. We hope you have a happy and safe holiday full of wonder and joy.

Protect Your Trees from Drought and Summer Heat

SummerTreesHeat is a common weather pattern in Texas during the summer. Sometimes, the heat gets extreme. Without much rain, many trees will struggle through a drought period. So, how do you protect your trees from drought and summer heat? They kind of go hand in hand. When there’s too much heat, subsoil moisture is completely gone. Trees lose water faster than they can replace it.

Trees will begin to show signs of drought stress. These can include:

  • Wilted foliage,
  • Leaf scorch,
  • Sparse canopy,
  • Undersized leaves,
  • Yellowing,
  • Leaf drop,
  • And premature fall coloring.

If you look at the tree closely, you may also see stunted twig and bud growth. Trees that are susceptible to summer heat or drought conditions can also have problems with insects and diseases.

To protect your trees from drought and summer heat, you can take certain actions such as:

  • Mulching,
  • Watering,
  • Fertilizing,
  • And pruning.


Mulching is a significant way to protect trees and shrubs in the summer. It provides the soil with many benefits such as nutrition, increased moisture, weed suppression and temperature moderation. Of course, remember to water trees before mulching. Mulch should be layered 2-inches deep with no contact between the mulch and the tree trunk. If you put the mulch too close to the bark, the moisture will build up and can cause decay. Some experts recommend that you spread the mulch to a width of about one foot around the tree for best results.


Trees require more water in the summer than at other times of the year. Watering trees and shrubs during the hottest part of the day is not a good idea, however. This can lead to evaporation before the water reaches the root. Water your trees slowly to prevent over-watering. By watering properly, your trees will have a deep root system. If you water in small amounts daily, you can also avoid root rot. The best time to water is between 10pm and 6am.


You should fertilize your trees throughout the year. The early summer months, however, are the best times for nitrogen-based fertilizer. This works especially well if your leaves are becoming discolored or wilted. Determining the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium can be difficult. Folks who work at gardening stores might be able to help you out.


When you are pruning your trees, you should focus on removing dead, damaged and diseased branches. This will protect your trees from heavy storms by reducing wind resistance. Of course, you should probably have a certified arborist like the one at Austin Tree Service do the pruning. We will make sure to get the branches that are necessary.

We hope that this blog post has helped you protect your trees from drought and summer heat. Unfortunately, those weather conditions are unavoidable in Central Texas. If you ever have any questions or want more information, feel free to call us at 512-341-8888. We’re happy to help.

How to properly decorate your outdoor trees for Christmas

christmastreedecorationsChristmas decorations have been extending outside for a long time now. Many people have wonderful Christmas displays on their front lawns. When decorating your outdoor trees for Christmas, there are a few things you should keep in mind. These tips for how to properly decorate your outdoor trees for Christmas will ensure that your trees look great and remain safe.

  1. Make sure lights have all bulbs lit. Before you wrap the tree with Christmas lights, make sure they are functional. Check the bulbs to make sure they’re all lit. If one isn’t lit, then the whole string won’t work. You can check them indoors if you’d like. When you buy Christmas lights, they have some extra bulbs in the box. Be careful not to throw those away. You never know when you may need them.
  2. Don’t overload your power source. You’ll be using lots of wires. Make sure you have extension cords and they’re not loaded with too many wires. Better to buy more extension cords than to have fewer cords that are overloaded. You will also want to make sure they are not near standing water at any time. Make sure your amperage of your electrical products matches the amperage of your extension cords. Otherwise, you could be creating a fire hazard.
  3. Before using any wires, inspect them. Make sure they are not frayed or damaged in any way. If they are, don’t use them. You don’t want to take the chance of using them. They could ruin your whole display – and your house.
  4. Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees. You can wrap the lights around the tree trunk or within the branches. It’s up to you how you decorate, but make sure they’re secure so that the wind or bad weather doesn’t mess them up. You also want to make sure they won’t damage your wires. (Check #3 for more information on wires.)
  5. Turn off indoor and outdoor decorations when going out. This includes the decorations in your trees. You’ll also want to use a timer so they’re not on all night. Timers are easy to get and use and they help save electricity and don’t upset the neighbors.

We hope these tips have helped you with your Christmas decorations. We especially want you to focus on keeping your trees healthy while being well-decorated. If you have any questions, contact Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888. Happy Holidays!


Preparing Trees and Shrubs for Ice Damage

magnolia-tree-684226_640Believe it or not, winter is on its way. We’re already in November. Homeowners can do themselves and their trees a big favor by properly preparing trees and shrubs for ice damage. To remain in good health, trees require care before and during the winter. Here are some suggestions as to what you can do to prepare your trees and shrubs for ice damage.

Put mulch on the base

You should apply two to four inches of wood chips, bark or some other type of organic mulch near the base of your trees. You can also use recycled leaves that have fallen from the trees as an organic mulch to protect them for the winter. Be careful not to put the mulch directly against the tree. If you do, then you could increase the chance of soil evaporation and cause issues with water absorption. This process of mulching will help insulate the tree from extreme temperatures. Check your community recycling program. Some of them provide wood chips to you for free.

Rules for winter pruning

Late winter is probably the best time to prune most tree species. However, it can be done whenever the trees are dormant over the winter months. Pruning is often done to remove dead branches or overhanging branches that could damage your home. You shouldn’t remove any branches without having a good reason.

More specifically, you should prune evergreens as needed. This includes magnolias, live oaks and wax myrtles. This will minimize possible ice damage. Do it now (in November) so you can avoid problems in the winter. Wait until the first freeze and then cut back dormant perennials such as lantana and salvia. You’ll want to trim tropical plants like cannas and elephant ears after their foliage freezes down. A major re-shaping of shade trees should be done as needed after the first freeze when the plants go dormant.

The best thing you could do is call us at Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888 to have our professional certified arborist assess and help you make a knowledgeable decision about the best way to protect your trees and shrubs for ice damage.