11 Effects Of Snow And Ice Can Have On Your Yard (And What You Can Do About It)
If a plant is dormant, that means you don’t have to worry about it, right? Wrong! In fact, the months of dormancy brought on by less light and colder temperatures can be when the greenery and structures in your yard need you most.
The good news is that snow and ice from winter weather don’t have to be the grim reaper of your property, in fact, with the right preparation, winter is the time when plants rest and get ready for the work of blooming in the spring. Don’t let the dormancy in your yard fool you—your yard needs your help to stay healthy all year long.
Winter Can Be Hard On Your Yard
Plants have adapted through time to survive all kinds of weather conditions, from the baking sun to frigid winters. On the cellular level, plants accumulate sugars, salts, and other substances that decrease their freezing point, helping them prepare for the colder days ahead. This process leads a plant to dormancy, which helps slow growth and reduces energy and water needs.
But that doesn’t mean the winter doesn’t damage the plant on a larger scale. In fact, winter can be trying on all kinds of plants, especially young plants and plants with unstable or shallow root systems. Between freezing temperatures that can cause plant cells to fracture, heavy snow breaking branches on your trees, and dry, freezing months that dehydrate and freeze root systems, the greenery in your yard has to work double time to survive colder months.
That being said, spending some time preparing your yard in the fall can help it not only survive the winter but thrive in the spring. From mulching, pruning, stabilizing, and watering, it’s easy to make sure your trees, shrubs, and lawn will be ready to bloom in warmer weather.
11 Effects Snow And Ice Have On Your Yard
1. Heavy Snow And Ice Can Break Branches On Trees
Snow may look beautiful laying on the branches of your favorite tree, but if it gets too heavy that beauty might be hurting it. To prevent snow from weighing down your branches, tie up weak or new branches using burlap in the fall. Once the snow has fallen, the best way to remove heavy snow from the branches of your trees depends on the type of snow, the type of tree, and the temperature outside.
If the snow is light and soft, you can very gently shake the branch as close to the trunk as possible. If the snow is heavy and wet, use a broom to gently brush the snow off the branches. And if it’s still hovering around freezing, your best bet is to wait until it’s above freezing so you don’t cause more damage to an already brittle branch.
2. Late Frosts Can Kill New Growth
As the days grow longer and temperatures get warmer, your plants start to begin the process of blooming and growing. But if there is a late frost, even if the blossoms haven’t completely sprouted, it can cause damage to the buds and halt growth. If you know there will be a late frost, you can use blankets or towels draped over shrubs to protect them from the late frost.
3. Deep Frost Can Kill Root Systems
Snow is actually a great insulator for the root systems of your trees and bushes, but if there has been a few weeks of no snow and freezing temperatures, your roots might be suffering. With temperatures under 15 degrees your roots, especially shallow roots or young tree roots might be suffering under the ground. Make sure you mulch around your shrubs and trees to help insulate the roots from freezing temperatures.
4. Frozen Temperatures Can Ruin Your Sprinkler System
If you don’t take the time to winterize your sprinklers in the fall before the first frost, you are likely going to deal with broken pipes come spring. And even if you have winterized your sprinkler system, temperatures that stay below 15 degrees for long periods of time can make even winterized sprinkler pipes crack. Every fall, before the temperatures hit freezing, take the time to winterize your system and double-check for areas that might seem damaged to fix the problem before the frost hits.
5. Ice Sitting On Your Lawn Can Kill It
If you’ve noticed patches of ice sitting on your lawn, especially when there hasn’t been snow to insulate or warmer temperatures melt the ice, it can cause cellular damage to the grass plant itself. Not only does it keep the grass in a frozen state, but it prevents it from growing or getting the sunlight it needs. Help the ice melt faster by adding a light layer of sand or clay-based litter. Adding these substances can help new ice from forming and prevent damage to the grass below the ice.
6. Frost Cracks
Frost cracks (or radial shakes) are long cracks that appear in tree trunks as a result of temperature fluctuations. You’ll most often notice these cracks on the south side of the trunk as that area gets the most sun during the winter causing the most drastic changes in temperatures. These cracks can be relatively harmless, but if there are too many or they are happening too often, it is stressing the tree and can make it difficult for trees to flourish. If you notice a tree has more frost cracks than others in your yard, you can try using a plastic trunk protector to insulate it from the cold.
7. Damage From Critters
Rabbits, mice, and other mammals might use your young tree as food this winter if they can’t find anything else to eat. The soft bark of a young tree makes it easier for the animals to chew it off and digest it, making immature trees an easy target for these foraging critters. You can place chicken wire fencing, netting, spiral tree guards, or plastic trunk protectors around the base of the shrubs and trees to protect the new trees from animals.
8. Salt Can Damage Plants
Salt is a great way to keep your driveway from being a small ice rink, but it can wreak havoc on your landscaping plants. If you are worried about the effect of salt on your landscaping, you can use kitty litter or sand near the edges of landscaping to prevent the salt from touching your lawn, trees, and shrubs.
9. Wet Weather Can Damage Deck Material
If you have a wood deck, you likely know that winters can be hard on wood. The precipitation sits on the wood for months and causes discoloration, warping, and cracking. A little prep work in the fall can help keep your deck looking fresh in the spring—sweep it up, scrub it down, apply a winter repellent, and then cover it with a tarp.
10. Freezing Temperatures Can Damage Your Pool And Water Features
While your pool or water feature might be the highlight of your summer, they can cause a headache in the spring if you don’t prepare them for the winter, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of winter precipitation. To prepare your pool for the winter, clean the water, test the pH level, drain the water to just below the skimmer opening, blow out the plumbing and use a high-quality cover to seal out debris and trap heat inside. Or, if that seems overwhelming, you can always contact a qualified team to prepare your pool for winter.
11. Rapidly Changing Temperatures Can Damage Hardscape
Depending on the type of hardscape, fluctuating temperatures can cause cracks and instability. As the weather gets colder, many materials used in hardscape projects contract, but as the weather gets warmer it expands. If the expansion and retraction happen slowly, it likely won’t affect the hardscape. But spring and fall weather patterns that result in rapid changes in temperature can cause problems for your hardscape, including cracks in your pavers, cracks in caulk or grout, or even more significant damage to wood structures. Working with an experienced landscape team can help you decide what materials to use in your hardscape project to prevent issues with rapid weather changes.
Big Rock Landscaping: Helping Prep Your Yard For Winter
With winter on the horizon, many homeowners might find themselves worried about their yards during colder months, and for good reason. Our yards are an extension of our homes, and we put time, effort, and money into keeping our landscapes beautiful and functional. That’s why the team at Big Rock Landscaping is dedicated to planning, installing, and maintaining yards that can thrive all year round. Our team uses a unique process that includes designing your dream yard using our combined decades of experience and installing the design with our expert installation team. This process leads to a yard that is easy to enjoy all year. If you are ready to create an outdoor space that brings ease and joy to your family, contact us today and let our team at Big Rock Landscaping help!