Protecting perennial or evergreen shrubs and trees may be one of the most challenging parts of our enduring Minnesota winters. Many of us have spent quite a bit of time and money carefully selecting trees and shrubs that look green and beautiful against a background of snow and grey skies. Unfortunately, winter weather, hungry animals and salt can all damage your carefully selected greenery, causing it to look brown or sickly.
Taking on a few additional tasks in the fall can ensure that your soft landscape elements will survive—and thrive—this winter. Here are the 5 most likely winter threats to your shrubbery:
1. Root Damage
The roots of trees and shrubs are more vulnerable to cold and frost than branches or stems. Fortunately, however, well-cared for soil will act as an insulator to protect the roots of your plants.
- To minimize root damage, heap wood mulch around the base of the trunk in a “donut” shape, with about 6” between the trunk and the ring of mulch.
- In addition to mulch, moist soil protects against frost better than dry soil. In a dry fall, be sure to water your trees or bushes thoroughly. This will keep frost from penetrating as deeply into the soil.
- Also, frost can seep into any available space. While you’re watering, check around the tree for cracks in the ground and fill them in with more soil.
Mulching around bushes and trees is an optional part of EnJay’s fall cleanup services. Save money by booking your spring and fall cleanup together!
2. Sun Damage
In evergreens, bright winter sun can cause browning foliage through loss of water and chlorophyll. In both evergreens and deciduous trees, warm winter sun causes a rejuvenation of cellular activity in the bark tissue or evergreen foliage. When the sun sets or disappears behind clouds, the rapid drop in temperature causes damage or death to that new, tender tissue.
- Protect deciduous trees and plants by wrapping the trunk with white tree wrap to reflect the sun. Do not use brown or black; this will absorb the heat. Wrap young trees, those with thin bark, and trees that have been recently trimmed of lower branches.
- Protect evergreens with a barrier of burlap on the south, southwest, and windward sides of the trees. Prune away any brown foliage in the spring, after the buds have opened. Fertilize in the spring and continue to water well to encourage healthy growth.
3. Snow and Ice Damage
Heavy snowstorms and thick ice accumulation can cause too much weight for more fragile trees or bushes. The added weight causes bending or breaking of branches. Trees that have more than one main stem (leader) or trees that grow in a cluster, such as birch, are especially vulnerable to this. In addition, vertical evergreens, such as junipers, are also susceptible to damage from heavy snow or ice.
- Support small trees or multi-stems by tying them together with strong cloth strips about two-thirds of the way above the divergence. Remove the ties in the spring to ensure proper continued growth.
- Keep your vegetation carefully trimmed to prevent multiple leaders.
- Wrap upright evergreens with burlap to prevent heavy snow from settling on individual branches.
Upon request, EnJay’s experienced techs will trim bushes as part of our fall cleanup service. Want to see what else is included? Check it out here.
4. Salt Damage
In Minnesota, damage from road salt is one of the biggest threats to our winter landscapes. Salt runoff leaches into the soil, damaging the roots and ultimately the foliage as it is absorbed by the plant. In addition, passing traffic sprays out road salt that can directly damage stems and greenery. If possible, don’t plant your trees and shrubs near streets where salt de-icers may be used. While making your initial landscaping decisions, choose plants that are more tolerant of salt for areas near roadways. Here are some tips to protect your existing plants:
- Use the smallest amount of salt possible by treating the sidewalks before snow or ice falls or immediately after.
- Sprinkle within the lines! Be careful to only spread salt where it is needed and not scatter it in ditches or on the lawn.
- Utilize environmentally-safe de-icers when possible. Rock salt (sodium chloride) causes the most damage to plants and grass. Instead, consider alternative de-icers such as calcium chloride. They can be a bit more expensive, but their increased efficacy means you use less salt and quickly make up the price difference. Pro Tip: Alternative de-icers can potentially degrade cement; choose carefully and use with discretion.
Need to replace a broken or pitted cement walkway or patio? Call EnJay today to discuss your patio needs with our experienced landscape team: (952)206-5296 (LAWN)
- Avoid shoveling dirty snow from walkways onto plants. However, plunking salt-free snow around plants can better insulate them and, while melting, will dilute any salt that may have found its way to the area.
- Wrap shrubs in heavy traffic areas with burlap to protect them from salt spray, sun and wind.
5. Animal Damage
Rabbits and mice consider your tree bark and evergreens to be pretty tasty—and so do the deer! Prevent their hungry munching with a few careful adaptions:
- Install ¼” wire mesh around tree trunks or shrubbery beds. It should extend 3” below the ground (to stymie burrowing critters) and 24” above the projected snow depth. You can leave the mesh up all year; just check it regularly for rabbits in case clever Peter manages to find a way in.
- If wire mesh is not an option, consider applying an animal repellent on the trees and shrubs. This stuff smells and tastes bad to animals, but won’t hurt them. One application will last a full dormant season, however if animals that are hungry enough may be tempted to ignore it.
- Rabbits nest in leaf or brush piles as well as under decks or in sheds, etc. Clear away debris in your yard and fence off any hiding places. In addition, make sure that the grass is mowed one last time in the fall and remove any ornamental grasses within 2 feet of trees or bushes, to reduce cover for mice or voles.
Didn’t quite get to clearing away all those brush piles in the fall? Save time this spring and let EnJay’s trustworthy techs take care of it for you. Removing cover for the critters in the spring will decrease their numbers in your yard by next winter. Contact Us
- Consider high, sturdy fences to keep deer out of your landscaping. Fences should be at least 8’—perhaps even 12’—high to prevent deer from jumping over them.
Of course, the best prevention of winter damage to plants and trees is to keep them healthy with regular weeding, fertilization and watering in the spring, summer and fall. EnJay offers weeding and fertilization services on a weekly, bi-weekly, or as-needed basis. Our experienced, certified team also performs irrigation installation, irrigation blowouts and spring start-ups for both commercial and residential properties to keep your lawn looking green and lush all season long!