This helpful article is contributed by our guest author Daniel Feinstein. Daniel lives outside of toronto with his wife and two children, He works for Greenbloom Landscaping and regularly contributes articles and blog posts to their website.
Living in Toronto and working in the landscaping, I have a great deal of experience in dealing with winter and the significant damage it can do to one’s house or yard. Without proper care and precaution, a winter can really have a devastating effect on the landscaping of your property.
If you live in the Northern US or Canada then a certain amount of winter damage is to be expected in your yard. The best way to limit the amount of damage that your yard will sustain is simply to become familiar with the most common types of damage and how to deal with and prevent them.
Frost damage will most typically occur on plants when they are fertilized or pruned around the beginning of autumn. Pruning or fertilizing at this time can often stimulate new growth in a plant. If the new growth hasn’t acclimated by the time winter comes then it will succumb to the weather; turn brown or black and die.
The best way to avoid frost damage is simply to avoid fertilizing and pruning at the end of summer. If pruning just can’t wait then at least try and put it off until the plant has gone dormant.
Wait until the spring to prune away the damaged branches. Frost damage can also occur in the spring as a result of a late frost. There isn’t much you can do in order to avoid this kind of frost damage.
Frost heave is a particularly annoying problem, especially when a really nice little plant is “spat” out of the garden. Frost heave will occur when there are a number of freezing and thawing days in succession. Smaller plants with shallow roots will be literally pushed out of the ground; exposing their roots.
The best way to avoid frost heave is to use mulch, especially in the areas around smaller plants. Mulch protects the soil and will reduce the adverse affects of temperature change on the soil.
If you notice that a plant in your yard has suffered from frost heave then just gently push its root system back into the soil.
Regardless of what precautions that you take, you can expect that winter weather to take its toll on the branches of your trees. Strong winds, sub-zero temperatures, ice and snow all contribute to the problem of broken and damaged branches. This damage can have an effect on the health and appearance of a plant or tree so it is important to try and limit the damage as much as possible.
The best way to limit the number of branches that break or get damaged is to go over the plants and trees in your yard just before winter begins and remove any branches that seem tenuous.
Unless a broken or damaged plant presents an imminent danger, it is best to wait until spring before cutting or pruning damaged branches.
During the winter, the root systems of trees and plants, and the dirt around them, will often freeze which will often prevent plants from taking in any water. If the weather should suddenly turn warm while the ground is still frozen then the plant will not be able to draw in enough water from the ground to compensate for the evaporation of water through its leaves. The result is winter burn, brown or “burned” leaves and foliage.
An autumn with very little rainfall will make your plants more susceptible to winter so make sure your plants and trees are properly watered leading up to the winter. Mulch helps maintain moisture levels in the soil and is an excellent preventative measure against winter burn.
If you begin to notice that a plant is starting to be affected by winter burn then just take out your hose and add some water under the plant. This will defrost some of the soil and make water more available to the roots.
Ice-melting salts can do a tremendous amount of damage to plants and trees. Even if you avoid using it yourself, sometimes you can’t help getting hit by a little runoff from the road. If a plant is damaged from salt, you’ll notice that the corner of its leaves will start to “burn” and turn brown.
The best way to avoid salt burn on your plants is to avoid piling snow with salt in or close to your yard where roots might get exposed. If it turns into a regular problem along a road in front of your property then you might want to consider planting plants along the road that have a high tolerance for salt.
Treat salt burn by flushing the area around the plant with water. Spend a good couple of hours with a hose and go over the affected area well. If branches are hit by salt spray off of the road then hit them with a hose as well.
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