The Twisted Twig – A Homeowners Guide to Urban Forestry

Winter: Young tree training and bark splits

By Roger DeGood - Guest Columnist

This is the second installment of a series of quarterly articles to be published by the Swanton Tree Commission. These articles are meant to be informative and educational regarding the topic of trees, tree planting, and the care of the urban forest, both public and private.

By now we have had our first snow fall and the temperatures are below freezing. Our trees are fast asleep, even though the Callery pears have just finally dropped their leaves.

This doesn’t mean our tree activity stops altogether. Winter is a wonderful time to examine your tree structure without the leaves and make some quality pruning decisions. Young trees should be trained early, by the first or second year after planting. This will get them off to a good start in the spring and improve their structure into maturity. We have free brochures in the Brochure Bank at Village Hall on pruning, young tree training, and the proper tools you will need. You may also visit for tree-rific information about trees and tree care.

The next time you get outside, walk around your trees and see how they are doing. You may see some bark splits called sun scald. Sun scald is usually on the south to west sides of the trunk on young, thin-barked trees, such as ornamental fruit trees and maples. Do not despair. Your tree is rarely in danger. Sun scald is usually caused by a warm winter sun and freezing temperatures at night.

The cure is TO DO NOTHING to the wound and focus on keeping your tree healthy and happy. Your tree will survive and the split will grow over the edges of the wound in the next season. The tree will eventually grow over the wound altogether.

Don’t run out and buy that can of tree dressing. (I can’t believe they still sell this stuff.) That black tar, sticky goo used to be applied to “seal up” those bark splits. However, research proves that paint and tar just seal in moisture and causes disease and rot.

Your best bet is matching the right tree to the site, planting and mulching it properly, and watering. You may opt to gently wrap white or lightly colored paper around the trunk in the fall. Keep it above the root flare by 4 inches and remove it completely in the spring. Arborists discourage trunk wrap or those hard plastic, split “pipes” types simply because we, as busy homeowners, are forgetful and leave them on too long, creating an environment for disease and insects.

Be sure to visit the Brochure Bank at the Swanton Village Hall for more helpful information

So get out this winter. Look things over and enjoy your trees.

Next installment, Invasives – Bugs and Plants.
Winter: Young tree training and bark splits

By Roger DeGood

Guest Columnist