Storm Damage to Trees

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This time of year, storms tend to sneak up on us, as we saw last Friday night. Unfortunately, some of those storms can be severe and cause damage to us, our homes, our vehicles, and even our trees. When storms bring strong winds, hail, and tornadoes, these things can all do different kinds of damage to our trees. Cleanup doesn’t end with the branches on the ground.

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If heavy winds come and break branches, those breaks need to be cleaned up to a good pruning cut to allow the plant to seal up the wound. If the storm broke the top out of the tree, it would be a good idea to get a Certified Arborist in to look at the damage to determine if the tree can be salvaged. Allow the Arborist to do the pruning because there are methods that can be done to start a new leader in the tree to help it fill back in and continue to grow upward.

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In addition to branches breaking, some of these trees may have even had bark ripped all the way down the trunk of the tree. When trees have open wounds that are large, it takes a long time for the tree to seal up that location, if it can ever be done. This is a great location for insects and diseases to come into the trees and cause secondary effects on the trees. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to “fix” this type of wound. It is best to just leave it alone and let it heal on its own. You can remove excess bark that is hanging off the tree, but don’t paint or wrap the wound with anything, this can hinder the sealing process of the tree.

Hail can cause damage to the leaves and bark of our trees. If your trees leaves look ragged and ripped due to hail, it is mostly aesthetic damage. The leaves are still on the tree and able to produce sugars through photosynthesis for the trees so it isn’t as damaging as it looks. Damage to the bark on the trunk and on the branches can be more problematic, unfortunately there is nothing that can fix this but time. You will always have round-to-oval shaped wounds where hail hit the tree, but over time the tree will seal these wounds and it won’t be too problematic. If there are a lot of large hail wounds to a small tree, it might be the demise, but give it time to see if it pulls through. For a second opinion have a Certified Arborist look at the tree.

Some trees were uprooted in these high winds. According to John Fech, Kathleen Cue, and Graham Herbst from Douglas-Sarpy County Extension, the younger the tree is, the more chance it has to survive storm damage that caused it to lean. If the tree is 0-5 years old, it has a good chance to survive leaning and should be staked as soon as possible, as long as it is not closely located to people or property. If the tree is 5-10 years old and is leaning, there is a 50 percent chance that the tree will survive. Consult a certified arborist to determine the survivability of that tree, as the degree of lean is what will cause the tree to live or die. If the tree is more than 10 years old and is leaning, it becomes a hazardous tree. If that tree is in an area where it is in close proximity to people or properties, it should definitely be removed. However, if this tree is on an acreage or farmstead and is further away from people or property, it may be able to survive in that location, but a certified arborist should still be consulted to know for sure.

Tree Galls

Spring is a great time of year. We can enjoy spending time outdoors with our friends and family and enjoy the views throughout our landscape. However, that view is sometimes interrupted by weird formations that show up on our tree leaves which are called galls. The good thing about galls is that they are not harmful to our trees, they are just displeasing to the eye.

Galls are commonly seen on many of our tree species. A gall is a deformation on the plant usually caused by an insect but they can be caused by fungi, bacteria, and other organisms. Galls can form on the leaves or on the branches but it is developed as a result of the feeding activity of the insect or mite that then lives inside the gall.

One of the most common types of galls is the Hackberry nipple gall which forms on the underside of the leaf of hackberry trees. This is a very common gall, in fact, it occurs so often that it can almost be used as an identification characteristic of the Hackberry tree. In the fall, the psyllids, or tiny black insects, come out of these galls to mate and often become a nuisance insect in our homes. They are so small that they can get through our window screens and enter our homes to fly around and pester our families.

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Photo of Hackberry Nipple Gall by Sarah Browning, Lancaster County Extension

Another common gall that we are seeing right now is the bladder gall on Maples. This particular gall is caused by a mite. The signs we see from this insect feeding on our trees would be small, bright pink bumps on the top side of the leaves.

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Photo of Maple Bladder Gall

Oaks also get a couple of galls. There is a leaf gall that is fairly common among oak trees called the oak apple gall which is a large, round, tan-colored gall on the leaves. It is a growth filled with a spongy center and contains one wasp larvae in the middle. Bur oaks commonly get a bullet gall which grows all over the branches of bur oak trees. These galls appear as marble-sized, tan, hard structures attached to the branches of the tree. The bullet gall, which is caused by a parasitic wasp, is generally not harmful to the tree, but if the infestation gets very high, it can cause branch dieback.

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Oak Bullet Gall

Cottonwoods get a petiole-leaf gall. This gall is caused by an aphid and is a puffy ball located at the base of the leaf where it meets the petiole, or the stem-like structure that attaches the leaf to the branch of the tree. The petiole-leaf gall will contain many small aphids later in the season that will not harm the tree.

These insect galls are generally not harmful to the tree. They mainly cause aesthetic damage and don’t affect the health or longevity of the tree. There is no way to control the gall insects once the galls appear on the tree and prevention is difficult and not recommended.

Part of the information for this article came from an article written by Mary Jane Frogge, a UNL Extension Associate from Lancaster County Extension.

Peach Leaf Curl

Lately, I have had quite a few community members come into the office with a problem on their peach tree. The leaves look funny and have a pinkish color to them. The same problem is being seen throughout the area and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it, at least not for this year. The problem many people are dealing with is Peach Leaf Curl.

Peach leaf curl is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. This fungal disease is one of the most common diseases in the home orchard and can affect the blossoms, fruit, leaves, and shoots of peaches and nectarines. (Cherries have a similar leaf curl diseases caused by T. cerasi.) Peach leaf curl is more severe following cool, wet springs; temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F are ideal for infection, which is why we are seeing it so often this year.

Peach Leaf Curl, Paul Bachi, Univ of Kentucky R and E Center, Bugwood

Photo of Peach Leaf Curl is from Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org

The primary symptom is a thickened, puckered area on leaves which will turn yellow to red or purple with the loss of chlorophyll. These leaves may prematurely drop, weakening the tree and making it more susceptible to other diseases, pests, and cold injury. The disease can also result in reduced fruit set, size, and quality.

A single fungicide spray applied while trees are still dormant (just prior to bud swell), thoroughly covering all branches, shoots, and buds will control peach leaf curl. Effective controls include Bravo, Ziram, and copper compounds.

At this time of year, most infection has already occurred, and fungicide sprays are relatively ineffective. Fruit on defoliated trees should be thinned to reduce stress and improve tree survival.

This information on Peach Leaf Curl came from Connie Fisk, a fruit tree expert for Nebraska Extension located in Cass County. Read more from Connie on her blog, Food Adventures with Connie

Another thing to think about this time of year, is what type of fruit tree to plant if you are thinking about planting new trees. You need to decide what type of fruit you prefer to grow, what you will be using your fruit for, and if the tree is self-fruitful or if you need to plant a pollinator tree nearby. It is also best to plant fruit trees that are resistant to the common diseases found in our fruit trees. For apple trees, select a tree that is resistant to cedar-apple rust and apple scab. For peach trees, choose a tree that is resistant to bacterial spot. For pear trees, choose one that is resistant to Fire Blight.

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Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

For Apple trees, some good choices include Redfree, Johnafree, or Liberty. For Pear varieties, look at Moonglow, Luscious, Lincoln, Magness, or Seckel. For Peaches, choose Reliance, Red Haven, Contender, or Madison.

There are many other great choices for fruit tree varieties to use. Nebraska Extension released a NebGuide in July of 2016 called ‘Fruit Tree Cultivars for Nebraska’. It is a good guide that helps you to find the fruit tree variety or varieties you need for your fruiting wishes.

Tree Selection and Pruning

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Arbor Day is Friday, April 28th, 2017. Arbor Day is always an exciting day for me because I really appreciate trees and understand the real potential that can come from planting a tree. With Pine Wilt and the concerns of Emerald Ash Borer creeping closer it seems there is always a need to plant a tree, if not for you, then for future generations.

There are a lot of good trees to plant when you do plant a tree. The most important thing to remember when planting trees, is Diversity. When you go to purchase your tree, look around your yard and even your neighborhood. Try to avoid planting multiple trees of the same species, genus, or family of plants in the neighborhood and in your own landscape. You may enjoy Maples, but you want to make sure you plant other types of trees in your yard besides just maples to help avoid an issue that may arise should another pest come through like what we saw with Dutch Elm Disease or Chestnut Blight or now Emerald Ash Borer.

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Each year, ReTree Nebraska comes out with a new diverse list of trees that grow well in Nebraska and are often under-utilized. That list includes Baldcypress, Catalpa, Kentucky Coffeetree, Elm Hybrids, Hackberry, American Linden, Sugar Maple, Chinkapin Oak, Bur Oak, English Oak, Sycamore, Shantung Maple, Miyabe Maple, Gample Oak, Tree Lilac, Concolor Fir, Black Hills Spruce, and Ponderosa Pine. In 2017, ReTree Nebraska added Turkish Filbert including other nut trees such as Hickory, Chestnut, Pecan, Buckeye, and Walnut to the list of good trees to plant in Nebraska. There are a lot of other great trees to use in your landscape, this is just a short list.

Turkish Filbert is a unique, under-utilized tree in Nebraska. It grows up to 40-50 feet tall and 30-50 feet wide. It has large, bright green leaves that turn yellow in the fall. This tree has catkin flowers, like a cottonwood.  It has edible nuts that are produced in a cluster of 3-6 and have a spiny husk that covers the nuts. Often squirrels eat the nuts, but they can be roasted and eaten by humans. This tree is most commonly used as a shade tree or a specimen tree in a landscape.

Another thing to think about with our young trees, is pruning. Eric Berg, a community forester from the Nebraska Forest Service wrote a great article on pruning young trees. We need to start pruning our trees when they are young to minimize tree wounding and cause the trees to grow stronger, mature growth. A tree planted in a landscape setting, rather than being planted in a forested area, will grow out more than up and not develop a strong central leader. Often our trees develop multiple leaders that lead to weak growth that can easily be broken in storms. We saw the damage from weak branch attachments and poor growth in our ice storm this past winter.

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Photo courtesy of Kim Todd, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

We can prune a tree when it is young to help prevent some damage in future storms. If you would like to learn more about pruning young trees, Graham Herbst, from the Nebraska Forest Service, will be in Beatrice to teach us about pruning young trees on Monday, June 19th from 6-8 pm starting at the Gage County Extension Office. He will cover how to set pruning objectives, determining a pruning cycle and dose, strategies for specific trees, and how to execute your plan with proper cuts. There will also be a hands-on pruning demonstration at the end of the classroom portion. If you are interested in this program, please call the Gage County Extension Office at 402-223-1384 to sign up.

Which Herbicide to use…

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Photo by Nic Colgrove

Spring is coming. And with the onset of warm weather and more spring rains, comes many different lawn weeds. Each year we tend to find new herbicides in the garden center of our favorite stores. However, when dealing with pesticides, it is very important to know what you are purchasing and how to correctly use it so as to not harm the environment, pollinators, and beneficial plants.

One of the things we all need to remember when using pesticides is to use the right product for the job and to know what you are using. To use the trade name Roundup isn’t going to be enough anymore. There are a lot of new Roundup brand products that each have a different combination of chemicals.

Roundup 365 is a new product from Scotts that contains both glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the general Roundup product, as well as Imazapic. Imazapic is a selective herbicide used to control annual and perennial grasses as well as some broadleaf weeds. It has a trait that allows it to last longer in the soil than a regular glyphosate product which is essentially deactivated when it hits the soil. In accordance with the label, Roundup 365 should only be used in cracks and crevices in sidewalks, driveways, walkways, and tennis courts, amongst patios and paths, along fences, foundations, curbs, retaining walls, and landscape borders, and in gravel areas and parking areas. It is not to be used in areas where planting or seeding will occur for the next year or in the root zone of plants or in any other garden setting where desired plants are. Also, be careful when applying this to fenced areas as it should not be applied where there are desired plants on the other side of the fence that could be damaged with the application of this product.

Roundup for Lawns is another new product made by Scotts that actually contains no glyphosate. Roundup for Lawns contains MCPA, Quinclorac, Dicamba, and Sulfentrazone. MCPA is a herbicide similar to 2,4-D for broadleaf weeds. Quinclorac is a post-emergent crabgrass and annual grass herbicide. Sulfentrazone is the active ingredient found in Sedgehammer that is often used on yellow nutsedge. Dicamba is one of the 3 active ingredients in Trimec that is used for broadleaf weed control in a lawn. This product can be used over an established lawn because it has no ingredients that will kill established turfgrass.

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*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

Dicamba is a pesticide that we should be very careful with, as well as any pesticide that contains dicamba which includes Roundup for Lawns and Trimec. Dicamba can turn into a gas and move to non-target plants as a vapor in temperatures of 85 degrees and above. This volatilization can occur for the day and even a couple of days after application. So Dicamba products shouldn’t be used in the summer months. Also, be very careful with Dicamba products in your lawn around trees and shrubs. This product can cause injury to these plants when it moves through the soil and comes into contact with the roots. Limit use of this product to no more than twice per growing season around tree roots to avoid injury.

Each of these Roundup products are labeled for different uses. So, make sure that you always read and follow the label instructions provided with the product to ensure that you are using the product correctly and so that you don’t harm the environment or any non-target plants. Always keep the label and product instructions with the product so you will always know how and where to properly apply it.

*Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by Nebraska Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

Henbit?!

Henbit from canva

It’s spring, finally! I know our winter wasn’t terrible this year, but I always look forward to spring. That is such an exciting time of the year, all of our plants are greening up and the early blooming trees, shrubs, and bulbs are beginning to show us their beauty for the year. However, not everything about spring is fun and games. This is the time of the year I always get calls about that dreaded purple flowering weed in our lawns and gardens.

Henbit is the purple blooming weed that shows its ugly face very early in the spring. This is the weed that will cover crop fields early in the spring with large expanses of purple blossoms. This weed is also quite prevalent in our lawns and gardens.

henbit, steve dewey, Utah State Univ, Bugwood

Henbit is a member of the mint family, which means that it has square stems. It has leaves that are rounded with a scalloped edge and they are arranged oppositely along the stem. It has a small purple flower with darker colored purple spots on the lower petals of the flowers. Henbit is often confused with creeping Charlie or ground ivy, which is a perennial weed from the same family with purple colored flowers as well. The differences between the two are that creeping Charlie is a perennial so it blooms later in the year than henbit and creeping Charlie has flowers that are more blue and henbit flowers are more purple.

Henbit is a winter annual. This means that henbit only lives for one growing season, but it’s development is different from something like crabgrass which is a summer annual. A winter annual is a plant that germinates in the fall and grows a bit before basically becoming dormant for the winter months. Very early in the spring, henbit will start to grow again, produce flowers which produce seed for the growth to come next year and then it dies. A winter annual dies as soon as the weather starts to warm up in the late spring whereas a summer annual germinates in the spring and goes through it’s lifecycle through the summer months, dying with our fall frosts.

The problem with henbit is that by the time we see it, or rather see the beautiful purple flowers, it is too late to treat it this year. As I said, henbit dies when the weather warms up, so why spray it with a chemical when it is going to die in a few weeks anyway. The fact that it is noticed when it is blooming shows us that it is already producing seed for next year, so killing the existing plants does nothing for the future generation of this plant. However, pulling the plant would be a fine management practice in the spring months.

Henbit is a plant that tends to grow in the areas where grass typically dies out. Areas around sidewalks and driveways or areas where people tend to cut the corner around sidewalks are locations where the turf gets worn down and the henbit excels. Henbit is also often found along the foundation of a house or in a garden area with exposed soils. If we can do things to keep your grass growing in these locations or use other plants or mulch to cover the bare soil, the henbit will struggle. Using a pre-emergent herbicide for broadleaf weeds in the fall will also help reduce the seed germination. Finally, using any broadleaf post-emergent herbicide later in the fall after the henbit has germinated, such as 2,4-D, will kill henbit as well.

Nebraska Weather Effects on Plants

Crazy Weather blog

This year the weather has been crazy. We saw 70’s in February followed by 30’s and snow in the middle of March. The warm weather was great, but it got all of us in the mood for spring, including our plants. Now that we have seen such a cool down, our plants may be the ones most affected.

We have seen early budding in many of our shade trees and shrubs, which often happens with above average winter and spring temperatures. This can be problematic for the plant. If the swelling or opening up of buds occurs prior to a cold snap, it can cause damage to that particular bud. If those buds that were opening up were flower buds, we may lose the flowers on that shrub or tree for the year. However, if those buds were leaf buds, those plants may be set back on their emergence and growth for the year. If leaf buds were damaged, a healthy tree will set new, secondary buds to push growth but it will be later in the season than normal. As long as the tree is healthy it will be fine. But, there is nothing you can do to stop this condition.

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Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

This warm up, cool down cycle is stressful to our plants. So, it is a good idea to help keep your plants otherwise healthy. Make sure your trees and shrubs are properly mulched and kept well watered in the absence of rain.

Another issue that we are dealing with this spring with the rapidly changing environment, is the advanced emergence from dormancy of spring bulbs prior to this latest cold snap. There is nothing you can do regarding this issue either. The bulbs that have already begun to bloom may lose their flowers early or have some freeze damage. These bulbs may also experience some leaf dieback. Tulips and daffodils are normally a spring blooming plant, so they are accustomed to normal spring freezes adapting to temperatures as low as the upper 20’s. However, if we see anything lower than that, these plants may exhibit freeze damage on the leaves, showing up as white, limp leaves. Do not cut back the damaged leaves until the foliage dies back on its own.

Finally, we have started to see many of our perennial plants emerging and greening up for the spring already. Much of this growth occurred before the cold snap last week. As for these plants, I would advise you to just leave them alone. If there is a forecast for very low temperatures, it would benefit the plants to add additional mulch or a row cover over them for the overnight hours, pulling that back during the day as the temperatures warm up. If you didn’t remove the plant material last fall, leave it there now until the spring, even as they green up below it. If you expose the crown of the plant that has been covered by the dead plant material all winter long, cold snaps will be more problematic for the plants. The dead plant material and extra mulch the plant has had over the winter months will protect it from freezing and thawing and from very cold temperatures this late in the season. It is best to wait until we are more consistently facing spring weather before removing this plant blanket they have had all winter.

Do prune this…Don’t prune that

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Spring will be here before we know it. With all the warm weather lately, it is hard to remember that spring has not already sprung in Southeast Nebraska. But, with the warmer weather, there are a few things we can do in our landscapes and a few things we should avoid.

Don’t prune spring blooming shrubs this time of the year. Plants such as lilac, forsythia, spring blooming spirea, and some hydrangeas produce flowers in the fall of the previous year to bloom early in the spring. If you prune these plants now, you will cut of the flower buds and not have those flowers to enjoy this spring. So avoid pruning those shrubs in the spring. Spring blooming shrubs should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming in the spring. This will allow for the best growth of the plant and for best flowering each year.

Forsythia-Richard Elzey, Flickr

Forsythia Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Prune trees this time of the year. February and March are the best months of the year to prune deciduous and fruit trees. It is best to prune these trees during the winter months because it doesn’t affect fruiting that occurs in the spring and it allows the tree to seal up the wound quickly in the spring when growth resumes. It is also easier to see areas that need to be pruned in the winter months. You can see where branches are crossing or rubbing and where the branches are too dense. In addition, pruning in the late winter helps reduce the transmission of different diseases that aren’t active. However, it is best to avoid pruning maple, willow, poplar, birch, hackberry, Kentucky coffeetree, black walnut, honeylocust, and elm due to the high sap flow they have in the spring. Freshly cut wounds this time of year will cause the tree to “bleed” or have excessive sap flow out of the wounds. They are best pruned in the late summer to early fall to avoid sap flow.

Don’t uncover perennials yet. It is still winter, for a few more weeks. Many of our perennials are getting confused with the weather lately and some are starting to green up already. Tulips, Iris, and peonies are starting to emerge and crocus are blooming already. However, if you pull the winter mulch back from these plants or remove the plant material that was left on the plants through the winter, you will be exposing the plant to cold temperatures and removing its protection. The plant will have better survival and less winterkill if you leave them covered through the winter months.

Plan your gardens for the spring. Late winter is a great time to plan what you will plant in your vegetable gardens so you can format your plan to know what you have space for and to ensure that you move your crops around from year to year. This will also help you decide what seeds to start indoors. Mid-February through March is a good time to start the seeds of your chosen warm season crops indoors. Make sure that you have them in a warm location with 14-16 hours of light on them everyday.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood

Crabgrass photo is courtesy of Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Don’t use pre-emergent herbicides for crabgrass yet. The soil temperatures have been at an average of 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 7 days. Even as warm as it has been, crabgrass has not yet begun to germinate. If the temperatures continue at this pace, it will probably germinate early, but we still have a couple of weeks before we need to get the pre-emergent herbicides on. Remember, crabgrass germinates at 55-60 degree soil temperatures, so we still have a bit of warming up to do.

Gardening Tools

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January and February are great months to start thinking about gardening again, but don’t get too excited, there is plenty of winter left before we can go out and start cleaning up our gardens. However, we can start thinking about what we can do in our gardens this year and inventory garden tools to determine replacement and new pieces.

Garden Gloves are essential for any gardener. They help keep your hands from getting torn up when pruning roses or other plants with thorns. Garden gloves also keep you from getting dirt caked onto your hands. In my case, my gloves give the pruners something else to hit before cutting my finger, which is why there is a hole in my current pair. I have a very nice pair that are breathable and have a nitrile covering over the palm and fingers to keep my hands protected when working in the garden. I have to have a pair that fits tightly to my hand and that breathes or I will not wear them and then I will have very rough, callused hands with many scratches and wounds. My garden gloves are a must in my garden bag.

gardening-gloves

Every gardener needs a good selection of pruners. Hand pruners work best for pruning small branches on many of our shrubs and to cut back herbaceous perennials. Branches cut with hand pruners should be less than ½ inch or less in width. They also work well for deadheading during the summer months. Bypass pruners are preferred to the anvil type of pruners because they are less damaging to the plant stem when pruning. The anvil type of pruners crushes the stem as it cuts and can harm the plant.

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Photo of pruner types is from Michigan State University

Long-handled loppers are great for making pruning cuts on medium-sized branches, those that are ½ – 2 inches in width. There are many choices in your lopper purchases. Some have a standard length and some have telescoping handles, allowing them to be used higher into the tree or deeper into the shrub. Just like with the hand pruners, the bypass loppers are better than the anvil type.

For larger pruning jobs, a handsaw will be necessary. Again, there are many different types of handsaws you can purchase. I prefer the folding type which is safer and easier to transport because it fits nicely in my gardening bag.

A good spade is necessary for gardening. I prefer to keep a hand spade nearby for small jobs like planting vegetables and annuals and a long-handled spade for larger jobs such as planting trees and shrubs and to dig up large plants for removal or to divide. There are 2 main types of spades to use in the garden, the rounded spade and the flat spade. The flat spade is good for edging a garden and to get weedy growth off of bricks and edging each year. The rounded spade is good for digging into hard soil and for planting. I like some of the shorter handled rounded spades with a good point on the end. One particular model I like is the spade with an arrow-shaped head on it. This model moves through the soil much easier than some of the other spades.

One final tool that is very helpful for the avid gardener, would be a garden hoe. I have a hand-held Japanese sickle that I prefer to use. I can swipe it through the garden between my plants and it pulls up and cuts off all the weeds in your garden. You can even use this for weeds growing up through the mulch. You may have to move the mulch back a little after going through for weeds, but it is very quick and easy to use.

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Japanese Weeding Sickle

So get out your gardening books and find what works best for you and restock your garden tools.

Ice Storm Damage to Plants

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Many people do not like winter due to cold weather and the bad driving conditions such as snow and ice. Our plants are not much different in this respect, snow and ice can cause problems to our plants. The recent ice storm we saw covered our trees and shrubs in a thick layer of ice.

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Lawn covered in ice from winter storm Jupiter

As trees become covered with ice, problems can occur. The best way to avoid any problems from a heavy layer of snow or ice would be to let it melt naturally. Heavy snow or ice loads look damaging to the tree which makes people want to knock the ice off of the trees to help the plant. However, it is really better to leave it alone. The snow and ice will eventually melt off of the plants and they will spring back up to their normal form after a while. If you try to break ice off of a tree or shrub, it can break the branches or crack them, leaving them vulnerable to other problems.  Again, the ice will eventually melt off of the tree or shrub and it will be fine.

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Shrub covered in ice by 2017 winter storm

Many tree branches broke after the weight of the ice from the last storm proved to be too much. The best management practice for helping a tree that has broken branches due to snow and ice would be to go out and trim those branches to make them a clean cut rather than a jagged cut. Leaving a break rather than having a clean cut will prevent the tree from naturally healing the wound and this opening will lead to decay in the tree. This is much more damaging to the tree so it is best to prune the tree between the break and the bark collar or hire a professional to do this for you. If your tree split down the middle or lost a great number of branches, it may be time to to think about replacing this tree. It would be best to call a Certified Arborist in this case to assess the damage and give recommendations on the next steps for your tree.

 

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Broken branches due to ice storm, photo by Karen Rahe

Deicers are another plant consideration in the winter. They can cause damage to concrete sidewalks and to 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
  • Leaf margin and tip damage similar to chemical burns on the leaves

To avoid damage to concrete, remove the salt as soon as you can. Deicers are meant to make shoveling easier, not to completely melt away 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. If you are very concerned with the effect the deicers have on your plants, you can use alternate products for melting the ice, such as calcium magnesium acetate which contains no salt.