What’s that loud, shotgun-like sound from my yard during winter nights?

Q. I’ve heard a loud, shotgun-like sound coming from my yard at night this winter. Was it my trees making those cracking sounds?

A. What you’re hearing is probably frost cracks forming on young, thin-barked deciduous trees, particularly those that were recently planted in your yard.

Frost cracks can occur any time winter nighttime temperatures suddenly drop well below freezing after a bright, sunny day. During winter, the daytime sun warms up the tree bark, causing it to expand. When temperatures drop, the bark cools and contracts more quickly than the interior of the tree, causing the bark (and wood immediately beneath it) to split. This splitting causes a loud noise that has been compared to a shotgun or a car backfiring.

Frost crack damage is most often found on the sunny southwest side of a tree, which is why frost cracks are sometimes called “Southwest injury.”

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Answer Provided By ...

Jerry Somalski

Jerry is a Landscape Designer, Project Manager, and the President of Bay Landscaping. He began learning about plants and landscape design as a young boy, hoeing in the family nursery and tagging along with the landscape crews who taught him the tools and methods of the trade. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Central Michigan University, he returned to the family business. Jerry has an enthusiastic yet practical approach to landscape design, focused on choosing the right plants (ones that thrive in the mid-Michigan climate) for the right place to create sustainable and spectacular landscapes. He loves to share what he knows with gardeners throughout Michigan! Learn more about Jerry >>