From the Extention Office: Winter Tree Care and Pet Safety

Now that fall has arrived and cooler temperatures are upon us, it is time to help prepare our trees and shrubs for the coming winter. Doing a few things this fall can help protect our trees and shrubs from damage this winter.

Sunscald is a problem that is commonly encountered on young trees, newly planted trees and thin-barked trees. Sunscald happens when the sunlight heats up the south and southwest sides of a tree trunk. This will cause the cells to break dormancy and become active. When the sun is no longer shinning on the trunk (due to sunset, a cloud or some other obstacle blocking the sun) the temperature of the bark will rapidly drop, killing the cells. This will usually appear as sunken, cracked or discolored bark.

To help prevent sunscald susceptible trees can be wrapped in commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards or another light-colored material. The wrap will reflect the sun and help prevent wide temperature swings. Trunks should be wrapped from the base of the tree to just below the lowest branches. Make sure to remove the tree wrap in the spring after the last frost. This will help prevent girdling and insect damage to the tree.

Another common problem is winter desiccation. Winter desiccation, or drying out, is caused by the wind and sun. This is a problem on evergreens, particularly broad-leafed evergreens such as boxwoods and rhododendron, because they do not drop their leaves and continue to transpire throughout the winter. Therefore it is important that evergreens are well watered going into the winter. Make sure evergreens are getting at least one inch of water every two weeks up until the ground freezes.

Shrubs that are in very exposed sites may benefit from additional protection in addition to watering. These plants can be wrapped loosely in burlap or wind break can be constructed. Anti-transpirants are commonly recommended to help prevent desiccation. These products are wax like materials that are sprayed on to the leaves of plants to help prevent them from drying out. These products don’t last very long so they will need to be reapplied several times during the winter. While they may help in preventing winter desiccation, they aren’t a replacement for making sure your plants are well watered.

Rodents, such as rabbits and voles, can also cause damage to plants during the winter. They will often feed on the bark of young trees and thin barked trees and can girdle them. To protect trees from rodent damage, a loose cylinder of hardware cloth can be placed around trees. Removing excess vegetation and debris from around plants will reduce cover, especially for voles. Repellents are also available but they will need to be reapplied throughout the winter.

Ken Johnson




College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Allan Paul

Winter Pet Safety

Indoor pets not acclimated to winter temperatures should not be left outside in cold weather for long periods. Outdoor pets, however, can withstand fairly cold temperatures if they have shelter from wind and rain and have bedding to insulate them from the cold ground. Avoid electrical heating devices that could electrocute your pet if they got wet or were chewed. Outdoor pets also need extra food in cold weather to generate body heat, and they need access to water that is not frozen.

Keep your pet’s feet clean and dry. Ice or salt will cause severe irritation when caught between your pet’s toes. Frostbite is a winter hazard to pets as well as people. Frostbitten areas are fragile and should be wrapped snugly for protection from abrasion and from sudden temperature change. Severe frostbite requires emergency treatment.

Most radiator antifreeze/coolant contains ethylene glycol and is highly toxic. It has a sweet taste and is readily consumed by children and animals. Five teaspoons can kill a 10-pound dog, and less will kill a cat. It is very fast acting and results in kidney failure and death in as little as four to eight hours. Newer products that contain propylene glycol are generally considered safe.

Store new antifreeze in its original container, out of reach of pets and children. Keep the empty container or a record of the product used so that if your car leaks and your pet finds it before you do, you can tell your veterinarian what was consumed.

Dispose of old antifreeze in a sealed container; don’t hose it down the driveway. Always have plenty of fresh water available for your pet. A thirsty pet may relieve its thirst with antifreeze that a neighbor left out or hosed down the driveway. If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, call your veterinarian right away.

Products used to kill the rodents hoping to winter in your house will also kill your pet. Rodenticides cause severe bleeding, kidney failure, and death. There are no safe rodenticides. Whether out of hunger, boredom, or curiosity, pets will consume these products. If rodenticides are used in your home, put them in places inaccessible to pets and children. Keep a record of the product used and, in case of accidental poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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