Before waking up one morning to a beautiful but snowy or icy wonderland, think about the winter weather ahead. After cleaning up the landscape, homeowners should look at their yard and contemplate winter events such as wind, snow, ice, and road salt.
When you have finished raking up the last of the leaves, and clearing them out of the rain gutters, look up at the bare trees. Brian Wolyniak, Penn State Urban Forester, has these suggestions.
“Winter is an ideal time to inspect tree branches for defects, decay, or structural issues without the camouflage of leaves. Wounds, decay cavities, crooked growth, and weak branch unions are problems in the making that can be more easily spotted when the trees are bare.”
“Pruning also is easier in the winter. Instances to look for include crossed branches, dead or decaying branches, and closeness to utility wires.”
Don’t forget to look for branches that overhang the house, shed, garage and driveways. Wind, heavy ice or snow can bring these down.
Wolyniak says that pruning is both an art and a science. While homeowners can take care of some of their tree maintenance, he suggests only pruning what can be reached from the ground. Call a certified tree arborist for other pruning needs.
Protecting perennials and shrubs
Protect tender perennials and shrubs from wind, snow, ice, and salt spray. Use burlap to make a protective shield around the plant. It is good to also protect any tender perennial plants by wrapping them in burlap or protecting them with windbreaks.
Some shrubs such as acuba (gold dust) plants and arborvitae may benefit from being wrapped loosely to keep their branches from breaking under heavy ice or snow.
Julie Janoski, manager of the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum, suggests instead of wrapping burlap around lower growing plants, use the fabric to make a flat, vertical screen where needed. Staple the burlap to sturdy wooden stakes pounded into the ground. Keep the burlap panel a few inches clear of the plant. “A vertical panel won’t collect snow,” she said. Air will circulate freely around the shrub, and the leaves will dry off after rain.
Check out information about Winter Deicers and your garden, too.
Be prepared and avoid whatever problems you can as we approach our winter season.
Carol Kagan is a master gardener and author who has been active in herbal organizations for over 35 years. She has designed and maintained herb gardens and provided docent services at historic properties. She is the author of Herb Sampler. The book is a great resource for beginners who love herbs but aren’t quite sure how to get started; or have been unsuccessful in establishing a herb garden.