Taking steps to winter-proof your landscape will help to minimize potential damage and get the landscape ready for the spring season.
Here are few tips on how to care for your lawn and landscape in the winter:
Mulch trees, plants and shrubs. Mulch around trees, plants, and shrubs to add extra protection for winter. Mulching is an important control for erosion and loss of water, and a 2-inch layer of mulch will reduce water loss and help maintain uniform soil temperature around the roots.
Keep plants well-hydrated. Evergreen plants continue to transpire, or lose water through their leaves, even in the winter. Plants kept well-hydrated until a hard freeze, have a better chance for survival.
Protect evergreens, plants, and trees. Burlap wrapping can be used to shield valuable evergreens from salt spray and winter winds. Tie branches together that may be susceptible to snow loads.
Cut grass shorter. During the growing season, lawns should be cut to 3 inches to 3.5 inches, but the final lawn cutting should be 2 inches to 2.5 inches.
Watch out for winter warm spells. If plants are covered with burlap or other wrappings, consider ventilating them during the day and re-covering them at night.
Use care when shoveling and plowing or blowing snow. Place posts with reflectors next to plants so they are well-marked, then snow won’t be shoveled on top of the plants. Consider clearing snow away from walks and driveways with a shovel or snow blower. Doing so will reduce the amount of de-icing products needed.
Remove broken limbs. If a limb breaks because of snow, ice and wind, have it removed as soon as weather permits this will help the tree or shrub heal better as the warmer temperatures approach. Damaged trees are more prone to disease.
Tie Weak Branches to Strong Branches. Ice is much heavier than snow, and it is often the weaker branches that break when ice coats a tree or bush. By tying weaker branches to stronger branches using an old nylon stocking or strip of cloth, the stronger branches protect the weaker ones from bending under the weight of ice or heavy snow. It is possible that if the branches of a tree are drooping, damage may already have occurred. If the break is very small, tie the branches together to see if the break heals on its own. If it has not healed in a few weeks, remove the branch.
Never shake branches. Homeowners should gently brush off snow. Shaking the limbs may break them. They should use hands to scoop the snow away from plants to protect them from settling snow.
Use Water to Remove Excess Snow or Ice. Cold running water, like from a garden hose, will remove snow and ice from plants, but this method should only be used when temperatures are just above freezing. Never use hot or boiling water as this could burn plant tissue. If the temperature is too low to use water, a broom is the best way to remove snow as long as you do not bend the branches. It is important to remember that the goal is to reduce the weight of the snow, not remove it completely as the snow will continue to insulate the plants from cold temperatures.
Prune most plants in winter. The late dormant season is best for most pruning in many regions. Pruning in late winter, before spring growth begins, leaves fresh wounds exposed for only a short amount of time before new growth begins.
Minimize salt damage. Salt and melting agents for snow and ice can damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots. Get rid of extra salt by flushing out the soil with plenty of water.