Although winter won’t officially arrive for a week or so, many parts of the United States are already dealing with wintery weather in the form of freezing temperatures, snow and ice. Before the next storm hits, the National Association of Landscape Professionals is advising homeowners to take steps to protect their outdoor plants and landscaping. Although many plants are remarkably resilient to winter weather, heavy snow, wind and ice can cause serious damage – from killing plant roots and snapping branches to toppling whole trees.
“When inclement weather is in the forecast, most people focus on stocking up on food, rock salt and other necessities, and don’t necessarily think about protecting their property and landscape investments,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs, NALP. “The truth is, plants and trees can be especially vulnerable during periods of extreme weather. A few simple steps can make a big difference when it comes to ensuring that your landscaping survives the winter and will thrive again in the spring.”
NALP recommends the following tips to protect plants, trees and landscapes ahead of winter weather:
Wrap plants and smaller trees. Sub-freezing temperatures can damage many plant varieties, including roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles. To provide plants with extra protection from the wind and cold, wrap them in burlap or a frost protection fabric and plant them along a building or fence that offers wind protection.
Inspect newly planted trees and fill in any cracks around the planting hole with soil to prevent cold air from penetrating the root zone. Plant roots are slower to become dormant in the winter than stems, branches and buds, making them more vulnerable to sub-freezing temperatures.
Apply 2-3 inches of mulch around trees and shrubs. A layer of mulch will help to insulate roots when the temperature drops. Contrary to popular belief, snow cover will also act as an insulator and keep soil temperatures higher – so there is no need to remove accumulated snow from around plants.
If the fall has been dry, water heavily before the ground freezes to reduce frost penetration. Because moist soil holds more heat than dry soil, watering ahead of cold weather will help to prevent frost from penetrating as deeply.
Prune tree branches to protect against heavy snow and ice damage. Work with a professional to identify any dead or dangerous tree limbs that should be trimmed to protect your home and property.
Prepare for windy conditions. Wind can be one of the most damaging effects of a winter storm. Secure any potted plants, outdoor furniture, awnings and other items on your property that could get damaged in high winds.
Protect plants from salt. Rock salt used to deice sidewalks and roads can cause damage to plants. Avoid planting trees and shrubs in areas where salty runoff collects or where salt spray from passing cars could splash onto plants. Consider using burlap barriers to protect plants in vulnerable areas.
Plan your landscape with climate in mind. The best way to prevent damage to your landscape is to select plants and trees that are indigenous to your region, and therefore naturally equipped to survive in the climate. A landscape professional can help you to design a landscape for your home that will suit your lifestyle and withstand your region’s elements.
For more information on preparing your yard and landscaping for winter weather, or to find a qualified landscape professional in your area, visit LoveYourLandscape.org.
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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers
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