Winter can be a challenging time for your landscape, but with a little help from you, it can win the battle against Jack Frost. If you live in a cool or cold winter climate, take these steps to protect your plants, trees, and shrubs from snow, ice, winds, and winter temperatures. This season, pledge to do right by your landscape with these tips…
Prepare Your Lawn for the Winter
- Grass Cuttings – One key component to keeping your lawn in good shape is how to deal with lawn clippings left behind by your mower. While a little bit of cut grass can help amend the soil, too much can keep the living grass from getting enough sunlight. Your final lawn cutting should be 2 inches to 2.5 inches to protect new growth and to minimize the lawn serving as a feeding ground for the pest.
- Dethatching – Thatch is more than just grass clippings; it’s the layer of dead roots, organic debris, and leaves between the grass and the soil. By removing this layer, you allow more moisture and sunlight to reach the grass as well as reducing the potential for disease and insect infestations.
- Aeration – Aeration involves using a special tool to poke small holes in your lawn. This helps rainwater and water from your sprinkler system to be more easily absorbed by the grass. It also helps prevent the grass root structure from becoming so dense that it strangles the plants.
- Power Raking – Power raking is another method of removing grass, moss, dead leaves, and other organic matter that can smother your grass. This method combines both dethatching and aerating in one motion, using a special garden tool. You ideally want to power rake your lawn once a year, either in the spring or fall, depending on the type of grass you have. Do all of this before the first frost.
Protect Your Trees and shrubs
- Apply mulch – Plants trees and shrubs need extra protection from the winter so add mulch to these areas. Mulch will control erosion and the loss of water. Two inches of mulch will reduce water loss and help maintain uniform soil temperature around the roots.
- Prune Most Plants in Winter – Late winter or early spring is the best time to prune most shrubs and trees. Most plants go dormant during the winter. This is the time of year when they’ve halted active growth and have hunkered down for the cold weather. Because of this dormancy, winter and early spring are typically the best times to make any adjustments to the shapes of many trees and shrubs. You want to prune hard at end of winter or very early spring BEFORE any new growth starts. This allows the plant to put its energy towards producing new, healthy growth when the warmer temperatures of spring roll around.
- Take Precautions Against Snow and Ice – Winter is the time of the year many home gardeners begin to have concerns about the damage snow may do to shrubs and trees. While it’s true that heavy, wet snows and ice often cause broken branches, the snow itself will not hurt landscape plants. In fact, the opposite is true. Snow is a very good insulator against chilling temperatures that may injure plants. Snow on the ground prevents injury to roots, which generally can’t withstand extreme cold. Snow acts as an insulator or blanket, as do mulches, and is one of the best mulches for winter protection. Branches that normally bend will break in winter when they are frozen and brittle.
- Plants Near Foundations Are Vulnerable – Snow or ice sliding off the roof may crush the plants below. If you are concerned about injury to your favorite plants from the settling snow, protect them by scooping the snow away from the plant. Then, with gloved hands, carefully remove the snow from the branches. Natural snowfall or windblown snow seldom result in plant injury. It’s usually the devices we use to remove snow that causes the most damage.This winter, be careful when shoveling, plowing, or blowing snow. If you can’t remember where plantings are located, place posts with reflectors next to the plants.
- Beware the Salt – If you are using salt on walks and drives, keep in mind that this, mixed with the snow and slush that is piled around plants, can leach into the soil and harm roots. Avoid piling salty snow near plants or on lawns. If possible, use one of the environmentally safe salts such as calcium chloride or ordinary, inexpensive garden fertilizer, sand, or kitty litter mixed with equal parts of “safe” salt.
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