Ice and Snow in the Landscape

2015-02-04 09.33.35

Now that we are through the holidays, there is a little less hustle and bustle going on. It was nice to have been blessed with a white Christmas. Fortunately, the snow wasn’t too deep, but there was plenty that we had to get outside for a little cleanup on the sidewalks and driveways. With all the snow we received over the weekend and plenty more weeks of winter to go, I thought I’d give you all a reminder of how to properly take care of snow to not harm our plants.

Deicers can cause damage to our concrete sidewalks and to our plants growing beside them. Many deicing agents contain salt substances, such as sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Because of the salt content found in these products, it can cause severe damage to our plants, if too much is piled on them too often. Typical plant symptoms of salt damage include desiccation (drying out), stunting, dieback, and leaf margin and tip damage that looks as though the leaves were burned by a chemical.

Bag of Deicer

To avoid damage to the concrete, remove the salt as soon as you can. Deicers are meant to make shoveling easier, not to completely melt away the snow and ice. As soon as the salt melts through the ice and snow enough that it can be removed, go out and shovel it off of the concrete. When removing the snow, do it in a manner that protects the landscape plants growing in the yard. Do not pile the snow onto trees, shrubs, or flower gardens. If it has to be piled onto your landscape, move the salt onto the grass and try to do it in a manner that makes it more uniform on the grass surface. If too much salt continually gets piled up on the grass in one location, the turf can be harmed.

The snow didn’t build up too much on our trees with this past snow storm, but when we get a lot of heavy, wet snow, this can be a concern. Sometimes, ice and snow can build up on the branches of our trees and shrubs and can cause the branches to bend improperly. We saw this problem last January with the ice storm that came through. It is best to let snow and ice melt naturally off of our plants. Snow can be lightly brushed off of branches with a broom, if you desire. Do not try to hit the ice off of the tree branches because this can cause you to break some of the branches, which will be more detrimental to the plant. If there is snow on your tree causing it to bend down, it will reform in the spring once the snow melts off of it.

Finally, watch out for your lawn in the winter months as well. It is best to minimize winter traffic on any turf area and especially when frost is present on green turf. If frost has formed and foot or vehicle traffic occurs, the physical abrasion can damage turfgrass. Winter traffic can cause aesthetic damage, physical abrasion, and/or soil damage depending on the situation. Too much traffic on turfgrass at a time when it cannot recover also leads to winter injury. If you have to walk on the lawn for some reason, such as to take a pet outside, try to use a different path each time.

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