Winter is almost upon us in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and that means that you should be wrapping up your landscape winterization chores.
Winter’s Wear and Tear on Your Landscape
Winter’s harsh winds, heavy snows, and disabling ice storms can do permanent damage to your landscape—especially your woody trees and shrubs. You can lessen, and maybe even avoid, winter’s harshest punishment to your landscape by taking some preventative steps during the remaining days of fall.
Here are the 10 deadly deeds that winter weather can do to your landscape:
1. Frost cracks or bark splitting happens in trees when there are periods of freezing temperatures, and then, a sudden warm up. The bark literally cracks or splits open on the affected tree. Frost cracks tend to appear in late winter and early spring.
2. Dead twigs and branches from your trees and shrubs can fall off after heavy ice and snowstorms.
3. In late winter and early spring, frost and freeze damage transpires on trees and shrubs when the weather warms up enough to encourage leaf and bud growth for a few weeks that’s followed by a heavy frost or freeze that kills off the newly formed buds.
4. Leaf scorch or winter burn injury is caused by winter desiccation where severe winter winds dry out plants. Broadleaf evergreens are the most susceptible to leaf scorch and winter burn injuries.
5. When cold weather persists, some trees will take water from their leaves to provide food for the rest of the plant. However, leaf blight happens to these leaves when the plant’s root system is unable to replace that lost water.
6. Leaf scorch from de-icing salt takes place when your municipality or you use it to thaw your roads and sidewalks. The spray from the trucks can coat your plants by the road and the accumulation of salt causes plants to develop leaf scorch which may kill buds and branches.
7. Since trees don’t have leaves on them during the winter, they are susceptible to sunscald. Trees get sunscald when they face the south or southwestern part of your property and get a full day of winter-time sun. This daily warm up signals to the tree to think spring. However, the bark is scalded when night-time temperatures drop down to freezing and “burns” the exposed trunk.
8. Root damage happens when a plant’s root system doesn’t get enough water to nourish the entire plant. This lack of water can come from harsh winds that dry out the plant or from long-term frozen soil that doesn’t allow deep root growth and water re-uptake from the root system.
9. Frost heave happens when plants are “heaved” from the soil during a lot of thawing and refreezing. Since the soil contracts and constricts during early spring’s fluctuating temperatures, sensitive plants can have broken root systems and exposed crowns to the elements, killing them off.
10. Small animals, such as rabbits and voles, will eat the bark of your trees and shrubs, as well as burrow deep into the ground to eat plant crowns and roots when there is too much snow above ground for them to find food.
Protecting Your Landscape from Winter Damage
While there is no perfect solution to completely protect your Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio landscapes, you can practice some preventative measures to lessen the likelihood of plant damage over the winter season.
Here are some things you can do to protect your plants:
1. You can protect your tree trunks from sunscald and frost cracks by either painting white latex paint around your trunks that face the south or southwestern parts of your property. The sun’s light will be deflected from the tree, avoiding any damage from quick warm ups and dropping temperatures. And if you find white-painted tree trunks to be unattractive, you can also wrap paper or other materials around your trunks to protect them over the winter.
2. You can protect your delicate evergreens from heavy snow and ice, as well as from winter desiccation, by wrapping them in burlap or heavy twine. But make sure that you leave an opening at the top to allow sunlight to flow in over the winter.
3. You can protect your trees and shrubs from frost damage by waiting until mid-spring to prune them.
4. To protect your trees and shrubs from leaf scorch, winterburn, and leaf blight, make sure that during the remaining days of fall, you give your trees and shrubs enough water to soak deeply into the ground. Your woody plants are able to develop strong root systems when they’re properly irrigated.
5. To keep your tender perennials from frost heave, protect them with 2 – 2 ½ inches of mulch after your soil freezes. This will allow the soil to remain cold and protect your plants from sudden warm- ups and refreezes. It’ll also encourage deep root growth.
6. And you can protect your trees and shrubs from rabbit damage by placing plastic collars or hardware cloth around your trunks. You can also spray a rodent repellent on the lower portions of your trees and shrubs to keep rabbits and voles away.
If you live in the Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio regions, you still have time to finish these last minute tasks to prevent damage to your landscape from winter’s harsh weather.
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