Prepare for Wintery Weather
Forecasters are calling for our first batch of winter weather this week. It’s almost impossible to say at this point whether the Evansville area will get any significant snowfall or ice, but it’s best to be prepared.
First off, if you do need to shovel snow/ice off of walkways and driveways, please do NOT dump it on your shrubs! This will cause limb breakage from the weight of the ice. Also, any salt in the snow will cause chemical burning to the stems, foliage (if evergreen), and roots. It would be safer to shovel or blow the snow into the lawn, as turfgrass is a bit more forgiving than woody plants.
When using ice-melting salts, be aware that these products can be toxic to plants in large quantities. Some of these products work at colder temperatures than others. Even the splashing of salty slush can be harmful to some plants, especially evergreens. The best advice is to try to shovel the snow off the walkways and driveways while it is still soft and fluffy, before vehicles and pedestrians have packed it down. Use the ice-melting products on the slick patches that are left, instead of trying to treat the entire walkway.
Traditional rock salt (sodium chloride) is very inexpensive, but is probably the most toxic to plants. Some of the other ice-melting chemicals are a bit safer, but more costly. The safest product that I’m aware of is calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), which is very low toxicity to plants, but pretty pricey.
More information on ice-melting products and techniques can be found here:
- Winter Salt Damage to Landscape Plants (Illinois): https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/2021-01-09-winter-salt-damage-landscape-plants
- Minimize Deicing Salt Damage in the Home Landscape (Iowa): https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2009/nov/062401.htm
- Salt Damage in Landscape Plants (Purdue): https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/id/id-412-w.pdf
More Winter Weather Prep
Ice and snow can become quite heavy as it collects on plants. Evergreens are especially vulnerable, and often bend and droop out of shape. Fortunately, most of these evergreens are very flexible, and will recover once the snow and ice melts.
However, a large amount of snow and ice can cause limb breakage. These branches will not recover, and will need to be pruned off. I would recommend waiting until the end of winter before pruning out ice-damaged branches (rather do the job once, instead of several times). However, if you have large shade trees that lose major limbs from the ice, especially if these large limbs are hanging over the house or sidewalk, I’d recommend contacting a tree pruning company immediately, to protect yourself and the public. Contact me for some recommendations.
If you are worried about your evergreens bending in the snow, you can gently brush the snow off with a broom. Avoid vigorous motions that causes the limbs to shake or bounce as the weight of the movement can cause the limbs to break. Brushing only works with powdery snow. It is best to wait for ice or frozen snow that has adhered to the limbs to melt. Brushing or knocking off the ice will break the branches and pulls off the needles causing more damage.
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