Winter storms in the PNW last year surprised all of us with some legendary wind, rain and snow. And after the clouds cleared, our Garden Team was flooded with questions about how to fix the damage done to trees, shrubs and beds.
With storms and snow in the forecast, we’d like to share a few pointers on how to get your yard ready for whatever winter has in store.
#1 Go outside and evaluate.
Look at the plants, trees and shrubs in your yard. Are there any weak or diseased trees? Broken branches? Deal with these problems by pruning or adding supports.
If you have outdoor containers and they are not frost-proof, you should clean the dirt and plants out, wash, and bring them indoors. Freezing and melting rain and snow can crack containers pretty easily.
Protect other pots from frost by moving them against the house, where temperatures are warmer. You can also wrap them in insulation or bring them into an unheated shed or garage.
#2 Mulch around trees and shrubs.
Mulching your trees, shrubs and beds with organic compost feeds and protects them. Mulch evens out winter’s changing temperatures and helps retain moisture.
Spread mulch about two to three inches deep around your plant from the center trunk, to a little outside of the dripline (where branches end, and water falls). Avoid placing it directly against the trunk or the base of your plants, (it will look like a doughnut around your plant).
#3 Stake + Wrap + Cover
Newly-planted and top-heavy trees need help on windy days, so staking them to keep them securely rooted is key. Make sure you use burlap, foam ties or some soft material where the support wraps around the trunk of your tree. Winter winds can cause damaging abrasions to the bark.
Wrapping conifers and tender plants with burlap or frost cloth can help prevent dehydration and snow damage. Some trees and shrubs that may need wrapping are: Arborvitae, Camellias, and some spreading Junipers.
Tender plants, such as Phormiums, citrus, large-leafed Hebe, purple fountain grass, some Abutilon, and Cordylines if you’ve left them in your garden for the winter, can be protected too. With Phormiums pull the fronds together with twine before covering them. Be sure to remove the wrapping as soon as new growth starts, or after the danger of snow has passed.
And – there are always structural aids. Creating an A-frame out of plywood to place over dense evergreen shrubs helps keep them from becoming split or disfigured in heavy snow.
#4 Snow is in the air.
During winter storms you can help your plants by easing snow off bent branches. Rachel George, our Garden Team lead advises, “Older Rhododendrons, new dwarf conifers and other shrubs and trees can suffer breakage that could disfigure them. I recommend going out a couple times during a snowfall and gently lift branches from the underside to help remove snow. A broom is a good tool to use. If there is ice, you just need to leave it alone and deal with any damage later.”
If you do decide to use salt to keep your walkway clear, please remember to use it sparingly around your plants. Salt can be damaging when plants come in contact with it, and they can also be damaged by the runoff after a thaw.
While you are waiting for the storms to ease, you can get a jump on the growing season by cleaning, oiling and sharpening your garden tools. Plus, this is a great time to start planning your spring garden, so browse our plant library for inspiration and ideas.