Winter Care

by Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce and St. Croix counties UW-Extension

Each winter brings challenges for our outdoor landscapes, and when spring comes, we find winter injury on lawns and other plants. Some of these problems can be avoided with proper winter maintenance.

Be careful when shoveling, plowing, or blowing snow so it doesn’t land on tree or shrub branches and crack them. Frozen branches can be easily damaged, and that damage can ruin the plant’s structure forever.

Also, don’t remove snow from the lawn grass. Snow helps insulate the soil so it doesn’t freeze as hard. It also protects the crowns of the grass plants from the drying winter weather. The snow keeps them dormant until the time is right to start growing.

If possible, avoid mountains of shoveled snow, because deep piles that melt into chunks of solid ice can smother the grass, resulting in dead spots.

Salt is very harmful not only to lawns, but to trees, shrubs, and perennials when it gets in the soil. If you use products to melt ice on walkways and drives, look for one that does not contain sodium chloride and is environmentally friendly and safe for plants. When you shovel treated areas, try not to pile salt-laden snow all in one place, or near plants that may be damaged.

Once snow starts melting or if we get a winter thaw and lawns and gardens are exposed, don’t walk on them. That can damage the grass and compact the soil.

Visit our previous blog post on alternatives to salt here.

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