Help Plants Survive the Snow

The heavy snowfall predicted this weekend is a reminder that we’re heading into the season of heavy spring snows when plants may need extra TLC from their human caretakers.

Deep snowfalls – especially the ones during spring that tend to be heavier and wetter than powdery winter snows – can break tree limbs, smother and crush ornamental grasses and splay upright evergreens. Deep temperature dives below freezing may also mean applying ice melt to keep walks safe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as we head into this snowy weekend.

During the storm:
• Keep an eye on snow accumulating on trees – on both deciduous and evergreens. If branches are sagging under the weight, use something long such as a broom handle to gently shake snow off the branches as high as you can reach. Start at the lowest part of the tree rather than at the top. If you start dusting snow off the top, it will add even more weight onto the lower branches. Starting at the bottom of the tree helps to keep those lowest branches from being overloaded to the breaking point.
• If you have trees that are already leaning – or branches that are at a sharp “V” with one already growing more to the side than upright – avoid standing or putting property under them. These may be signs of a tree that could fall over or a branch that could break under heavy snow. Cottonwood trees, for example, are often susceptible to breakage.
• Branches of columnar, upright evergreens can spread apart under heavy snow. Gently shaking snow off these evergreens can help minimize the damage.
After the storm:
• Inspect trees for broken branches or “hangers.” These are broken branches that seem to be hanging on by a thread. Line up an expert to cut the branches properly to avoid insect or disease problems in these wounds later on.
• For upright evergreens that have splayed, check at a garden center for material that can be wrapped around the branches to restore their upright shape.
• If ornamental grasses have been crushed, they won’t bounce back. Plan a time when the weather is warm to cut grasses back. This needs to be done in the springtime anyway before new shoots emerge. If your grasses survived until now, congratulations!
Icemelt
• During the storm, try to use the minimum amount of product needed to get the job done as ice melt can be harmful to plants.
• After using an ice melt product on walks or drives, try not to sweep water from melted ice into lawn or bed areas. Let the water evaporate, if possible.
• When the area is dry, sweep up any remaining product and dispose of it. These precautions will lessen the buildup of damaging salts in the soil.
Be productive. Take advantage of a snowy weekend to hunker down and peruse seed catalogs or online offerings for spring and summer planting ideas. If we can assist you, please contact Designscapes Colorado at 303.721.9003 or info@designscapes.org. Thank you.

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