Keep your lawn safe this winter by checking out some great tips from our friends at the National Association of Landscape Professionals!
Once winter releases its grip, it will be time for homeowners to get outside and inspect their properties for seasonal damage. Besides the snow and ice, the biggest culprits of the winter months a group of very specialized pests and de-icing salts, all of which can damage trees, grass, and shrubs. As the weather begins to warm, it’s important to take stock of what damage has been done and develop a plan to get your yard ready for spring enjoyment.
- Trees and shrubs often bear the brunt of snowfall, literally. Look for any branches that might be broken or have been damaged by ice storms and prune them or have them removed by a professional as soon as possible. You may be surprised to learn that damaged trees are more prone to insect and disease infestations, but proper care can help trees and shrubs repair themselves. Damage Prevention Tip from the Pros: During heavy snowfalls, don’t shake tree limbs to remove the snow as this can cause limbs to break; instead, remove the snow by hand from low hanging branches.
- De-icing salt used to clear streets and walkways are often necessary for safety but they can wreak havoc on grass and plants. Salt will draw moisture from the plant cells causing desiccation. If your lawn is exposed to too much salt, it can cause it to turn wilt and die. To restore the health of your soil, you can flush the salt in the soil by giving your lawn a deep watering daily once the weather warms. If necessary, remove the brown grass and a few inches of the damaged soil. Damage Prevention Tip from the Pros: During the winter, cover plants and grass close to the road and sidewalks with burlap or snow fencing to provide protection from salt solutions.
- Check for brown patches in your lawn. Often excessive snow, particularly if areas have been covered with large piles of shoveled snow, will kill grass. To see if your brown grass is either just dormant or is dead, rake away some of the brown so that you can see the lawn surface. Check to see if there is any green tissue beginning to emerge. If so, the area will likely recover with time. If not, and other areas of the lawn are greening up, it’s time to make plans for some renovation of the areas. To repair, rake up as much of the dead tissue as you can. Adding alight topdressing of topsoil will increase your chances of success with seeding. Use a good quality grass seed that is appropriate for the area you live in. A local garden center, hardware store or your Cooperative Extension Service are good resources to determine this. Rake the seed lightly into your new topsoil, tamp lightly with your feet. Keep the area moist, daily if necessary, to prevent the seedlings from drying out. Damage Prevention Tip from the Pros: Try not to shovel large piles of snow on your grass; instead spread piles out over a wide area.
- Lingering snow can also cause snow mold, a disease that is mainly confined to the leaves of the turfgrass plants. It presents as a circular pattern of grey or pink grass. The disease may go away on its own but if it doesn’t, the affected grass should be firmly raked, a light topdressing of soil added and new seed sown. Most often, only a raking is necessary to alleviate the damage. Damage Prevention Tip from the Pros: Snow mold can also be caused by leaves that have remained on the ground throughout the winter so rake leaves before winter’s arrival to minimize the potential damage to your lawn.
- Moles and voles, deer, rabbits, and other nuisance wildlife often find their winter meals in the yards of unsuspecting homeowners. Damaged grass, gnaw marks on shrubs and trees, and small tunnel systems throughout the yard can be signs that unwanted visitors have taken up residence. Most of the time wildlife will go away once their traditional food sources are more readily available after snows have melted. Most damage to grass from moles and voles will self-correct once turfgrass growth resumes. If trees have been girdled, that is, if they have been stripped of bark by wildlife, they will likely die but should be inspected by an arborist to see if they can be preserved. Damage Prevention Trip: Remove heavy amounts of snow from around the base of trees to minimize ground cover for rodents and cover the base of trees with wire mesh.
Investing time in a thorough inspection of damage created by the often harsh conditions of winter can pinpoint small trouble spots to allow remedies to stave off larger problems. Your lawn care and landscape professional can help ensure the trouble spots in your yard are corrected before it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of spring.
Preparing for Winter
- Water regularly before it freezes. One of the best things you can do to help trees and plants survive a tough winter is to ensure that they have enough water in the soil before the hard freeze sets in. Many people forget about watering once the heat of summer is gone but it is important to keep watering during the fall until it freezes because your shrubs and trees can access the moisture in the soil. You might think that the snow will melt into the ground but if the ground is frozen but it will run off instead.
- Add mulch for protection. Mulch isn’t just attractive, it actually insulates the roots of your trees and shrubs; keeping them warmer and protected from harsh winds and ice and temperature fluctuations. If your mulch has worn away during the summer, it is a good idea to add more; making sure you have 2 to 3 inches covering the roots of your plants.
- Protect trees and shrubs with an anti-desiccant. Some shrubs and trees are susceptible to damage from winter’s ice, wind and snow. Treating them with an anti-desiccants spray on coats the foliage with a protective layer, which slows down moisture loss and protects them from winter burn.
Winter is hard enough on your landscape; you need to ensure that your snow and ice management plan makes protecting your landscape a priority. Many landscape contractors provide snow removal services to their clients. The benefit of working with your regular service provider is that instead of having a snow removal company that only sees your property a few times and year and doesn’t know it well, your landscape contractor understands the needs of the property and has a vested interest in keeping your plants and trees healthy.
In order to protect your landscape when dealing with snow and ice, think about the following:
- How will deicing agents affect your grass, trees and shrubs? Ask your landscape contractor about the types of chemicals they use and how that will affect your plants and grass. Many agents, like salt, can damage plants and should be washed off your grass and plants.
- Where will you pile snow so that it doesn’t damage your landscape? Piling snow on grass for long periods of time can damage it and snow piles can also starve nearby plants of oxygen. Obviously, you want to avoid placing snow directly on top of shrubs and other landscaping. It is important to map out your plan ahead of time because when 3 feet of snow hits, contractors can’t always see where your landscaping is if they aren’t familiar with your property or aren’t following a plan.
- Does your snow and ice management contract cover landscape repairs? You should know what your contract says about repairs to your landscape if it is damaged during snow and ice treatments.
- Do any of your trees and shrubs need special precautions? If you planted new trees or shrubs this year or have delicate or vulnerable plants you may want to mark those areas like they do with fire hydrants so contractors can see where they are.
For more great articles like this one visit www.loveyourlandscape.org
For more great articles like this one visit www.loveyourlandscape.org