Will it be another “snow-mageddon,” or just cold enough to remind you it really is winter? The differences between the winter weather of the last few years have really made it tough to plan how to care for your landscape. Heavy snow can break branches, freezing winds and dry spells sap the moisture out of your evergreens, and warm periods allow insects to continue to feed, growing their populations. So, what can you do to help protect your landscape plants? Below are a few tips that will help your trees and shrubs no matter what winter throws at you:
- Prune. Fall is a great time to thin out broken, crossed, crowded, or poorly growing branches. Without the leaves on the many of the trees, you have a much better view of which branches should stay and which ones should go.
- Water. If it was a dry summer or the autumn rains were not up to par, now is the time to make sure your plants have plenty of water to help them make it through winter. If there are warm periods during the colder months those are excellent opportunities to provide additional water if needed (just remember to turn your hose bibs off from inside your house once done).
- Mulch. Not only does mulch act as a weed deterrent it helps to regulate soil temperatures and prevent wild changes that might damage roots. +/- 2” of mulch is great and all you should need. Using an organic mulch like shredded leaves or Virginia pine fines helps return nutrients to the soil in the spring and prevent too much mulch build up in your landscape beds.
- Prevent water loss. So you watered all your plants, but now the ground is frozen and the winter winds are whipping, drying out all your evergreens. Late fall and early winter are an excellent times to spray your evergreens with an anti-desiccant to help prevent water loss from the leaves. Anti-desiccant is a wax like substance that will coat the leaves to help retain the moisture level in the leaves and branches. If you have a plant you are really concerned with, wrapping in burlap is also an option to prevent moisture loss.
- Protect. Winter is not only tough on your plants, it’s hard on many of our woodland friends (even though most of them do not live in the woods anymore, but your yard). With food sources harder to find, deer and rabbits will start eating whatever is around, including many evergreens and even the bark off some young trees. Placing trunk guards on trees or netting around the foliage can help ensure your landscape plants do not become some animals next meal.
- Watch for Insects. So what if the winter is mild and you do not have to worry about the bitter cold and heavy snows? Then watch for insects. Warmer weather will allow the insects not only to feed on your plans longer but they may even get another generation in, meaning more stress for your plants. If you see a lot of insects moving around on the plants, identify them and apply the appropriate horticultural soaps or insecticides.
- Clear off snow. Hopefully your preventative pruning will help prevent cracked and broken branches, but heavy snows may still get the best of your plants. It is best to remove the snow gently and often. Trying to knock large amounts of snow off can sometimes lead to the accidental breaking of branches and the snow falls to lower limbs.
- Be safe. Make sure with any winter work you do you dress properly, read the instructions (especially on any pesticides), and watch your step on snow or ice.