Plant and Hardscape Precautions For Snow and Ice

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Winter brings many changes to the landscape. In areas that receive any amount of snowfall or freezing rain, some precautions must be taken to ensure outdoor spaces remain safe and plant health is maintained. Prevent common problems posed by winter weather by takes some simple precautions.

Hardscapes

Snow and ice quickly make hardscapes slippery. Take  preventative action by applying sand or ¼ minus in high traffic areas to provide good traction – this will not harm the hardscapes, surrounding vegetation or waterways.

If snow or ice is present and requires melting, calcium chloride or magnesium chloride are effective and popular choices since they are much less damaging than salt. These products are widely available.

Plants

Plants adapt to the cold weather by becoming dormant, which reduces their water and nutrient needs during the winter. Stop any fertilizer treatments in the fall, well ahead of the first frost, and make sure any irrigation is turned off.

Keep an eye on plants and trees around your buildings during inclement weather. Snow and Ice can cause damage to plants as their added weight builds up on branches. To reduce the chance of branch breakage, gently knock built up snow off branches – it should fall right off with just a little encouragement, like gentle shaking or sweeping.  Do not hit branches or treat them roughly. Do not attempt to remove ice as it is typically firmly fastened to the branches and any attempts at removal can easily damage branch tissue.

If you have sensitive plants, they may require wrapping to protect them from extreme cold. This is best done after the plant has become dormant. In areas with light snowfall, build a simple structure by staking three wooden posts or rebar just outside the plant branches – this will keep your wrapping material off the plant, which allows for good air circulation and reduces the chance of plant damage. In areas with heavy snowfall, plants may be wrapped tightly to prevent a buildup of snow on top of the plants from causing damage due to branch breakage. Wrap the plant with burlap or other similar material that will allow for air and water to pass through as well as light. Be sure to remove any wrapping material well before growth starts in the spring.

If your plants do suffer winter damage, prune broken branches immediately (if they are frozen, wait for a sunny day) – clean cuts heal faster.

Keep chemical ice treatments away from landscape areas. These chemicals can cause plant damage and may build up in the soil.

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