Friday, March 6, 2015

Benefits of Snow for Landscapes

Buried underneath the nearly 15 inches of snow in my backyard lies my sleeping perennials. Hosta, sweet William, sedum, crepe myrtle, phlox, and so many others snooze under the pristine layer of white, waiting for sun and warmer temperatures.

So I started thinking today about just how, exactly, does all this snow benefit the landscape? There’s got to be a plus sign here somewhere.

And so there is…

Snow covered Nandina

Snow is Good

Snow insulates tender roots and prevents freezing/thawing that permeates deep enough to permanently damage a plant’s root system. Frozen soil around roots stops the plant from drawing moisture from the soil.

Many shrubs and trees suffer greatly during the cool months from October to March each year. Homeowners really aren’t always aware that we should be watering our shrubs and trees if the weather doesn’t provide enough rain. Snow helps keep the soil quite moist around plant roots, providing much needed moisture throughout the winter. Worried about winter watering? Pick a day with the temperature stays above 40 degrees F and check the forecast for potential freezing. Give your plants a good soaking so water seeps 6-8 inches into the soil.

Melting snow is replenishing the water supply, slowly but surely.

Snow is Bad

Ice melting chemicals can quickly and permanently damage your shrubs, bulbs, and lawn. Think twice before using these products if you have expensive landscape plantings. But wait! If you have a beloved shrub or tree near a roadway, it might be safer to leave the snow intact to protect the plant from road chemicals.

That heavy blanket of snow might also harm shrubs and trees with the sheer weight of the fluffy stuff. If you’ve got a heavy blanket of snow on a shrub, gently brush it off with gloved hands or a light broom. Be careful not to snap branches. Shrubs planted by the driveway or near areas where snow blowers deposit snow are especially susceptible to damage.

If plants are clearly bending from the weight, remove the snow. Ice is another matter. Do not pick the ice from a plant’s leaves and bark. Give the ice time to melt to limit damage to the plant.

So there you have it. As expected, snow is a double-edged sword!

Sources: University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, University of Wyoming Extension
Photos: Wikimedia commons, Public Domain

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