Low temperatures, frost or dry conditions cause winter injury. The results of these conditions vary from leaf burn to the death of the entire plant. If the temperature drops below a plant's ability to tolerate it, this is known as "low temperature injury". Generally this occurs in plants which are not suited for the climate. Frost cracks or sunscald occurs when temperatures drop after the bark has warmed up. Symptoms of low temperature injury include branch or stem die-back, black or brown leaves, or splitting of the bark.

Injury from frost occurs during the late fall or early spring when plants are growing. If temperatures drop near or below freezing, frost injury will occur. Symptoms of frost injury include brown to black flowers, fruit or leaves. Dry conditions create what is known as "winter burn". This occurs when the leaves of the plant continue to lose moisture, which is not replaced. Generally, plants exposed to the winter wind are more likely to have this kind of damage.

Although these are the three most common injuries in winter, there are other problems that can occur. If there is a heavy snowfall or icy conditions, such as freezing rain, these can cause limbs to break. Also, food is scarce during the winter months for such animals as deer, mice and rabbits. They will seek out leaves, bud and bark to supplement their winter diets.

Prevention

To lessen the chances of winter injury, choose shrubs and trees that are hardy for the climate. Check with your local nursery for more information and recommendations for what to plant. Ensure the planting area offers excellent drainage when choosing your location. Give all the trees and shrubs a good soaking before the soil freezes in the fall to ensure they have sufficient moisture for the winter months. Use some sort of windbreak for trees and shrubs in exposed areas and provide nutrients, water and protection against stress to ensure your plants are more resistant to winter injury.

For more information, call the professionals at Ace of Blades at 818-LAWN (818-5296),
or e-mail us at paul@aceofblades.ca.