As you wander through your slushy garden, you might notice that wicked winter has wreaked havoc on your shrubs, trees and plants, even winter hardy ones. Here are some tips to repair some of that frosty damage.
• Did you know that cold and snow aren’t your garden’s worst foes? Believe it or not, wind and sun cause more problems. The fluffy stuff keeps the ground cold and protects your plants’ roots. Be sure that your soil has good drainage during spring thaw; otherwise you’ll have standing water everywhere – never a good thing! So work in some compost to amend it.
• Hopefully, you’ve been regularly shaking off your boxwoods and evergreens after a heavy snowfall, since loads of snow will bend and break branches. Prune broken limbs cleanly so disease won’t creep in. Try staking and tying drooping branches to help the tree recover on its own. And in the future, use a broom or rake to gently sweep snow off!
• Cold wind can really do a number on roses, because it will dry out exposed branches.
Wind can also damage roots and newly planted shrubs and trees. Make a note to use next year’s Christmas tree branches to shade your roses and protect them from sun, wind and snow.
• Perennials that you planted in the fall may have had trouble withstanding all the freezing and thawing that went on over the past six months – roots might be damaged from frost heaving and from sitting in puddles when the snow melts. Next season, plant earlier, so root structures have a chance to develop, and be sure to mulch, which maintains soil temperatures.
• Trees, especially fruit trees like apples and black cherries, as well as maples, are also vulnerable during winter. Damage shows up in frost cracks after one side of a tree trunk heats up in the sun, expands and splits. But don’t worry; the wound will likely heal itself. Next fall, purchase some burlap tree wraps or cardboard sleeves for your trunks.
• Winter burn – where browning starts at the tips of evergreens such as yew, boxwood and holly – happens when plants break out of their dormant state, especially on newly transplanted trees whose root systems aren’t yet established. Don’t prune too early, because you’ll leave a giant hole. Wait for new growth to push out the brown tips in late spring. And next fall, be sure to water and mulch new evergreens until the ground freezes.