As temperatures become steadily colder and the sun sets just a bit earlier than we would prefer, wrapping up outside yard work becomes a priority. Beyond the obvious chores of raking up fallen leaves, tidying the shed or garage of garden tools, a little attention and thought should also be given to the following;
Where is it going to go? Now is a good time to review your property’s layout and determine where the ‘snow dump’ areas will be located. These are the areas where the snow, removed from shoveled/plowed surfaces, is put. It is a good idea to work with the snow removal contractor, your children, your husband/wife to ensure snow is put where trees and other woody ornamentals will not be damaged or be buried. Designate these areas prior to the first snowfall so that when the snow starts to fall, those in charge of snow removal do it properly and as expected. The best places for snow dumps are well away from tree trunks, planting beds, and any other area that will be a host to plant material.
Accumulated snow can do quick damage to plant material. With repeated snowfalls where the snow accumulates, and the snow dumps become larger and larger, the damage is often not seen until it melts in the spring. Placing snow dumps too close to trees can result in wounding and gashes to tree trunks and lower branches when snowplow blades and other equipment accidentally contact them. These wounds caused by snow removal equipment are an easy avenue for pathogens to enter the plant. Pathogens can lead to lowered vigor, disease infections, and lead to more energy being put toward repair rather than towards growth and defenses. Not only can the weight of the snow flatten and damage plants, but in situations where parking lots, sidewalks, and/or driveways are involved, and de-icing salts are applied post snowstorms, the repeated salt applications with the repeated snow removal can inadvertently move residual salt to the soil. Salt is very damaging to the root systems of all plant materials.
There are numerous benefits that come with properly installed mulch in planting beds and tree rings. However, during the dormant season, mulch moderates fluctuating soil temperatures which can be very damaging to fine plant roots. Ideally, planting beds and tree rings should have about three inches (3”) of hardwood mulch.
Walk around the yard and see if inadvertent damage is being done to your trees. Is the bird feeder or child swing hanging from a tree limb becoming snug? Is the dog chain tied around the tree trunk rubbing and creating wounds? Has deer activity begun to cause damage? If so, now is the time to relocate ornamentations, expand anchors and install protective barriers.
Scout for hives
Nothing is worse than being blindsided by stinging insects. Hives have a way of easily being concealed by foliage. Once the leaves have dropped, inspect your trees for existing hives. Make a note of their locations and remove them safely; call a professional or address them when insect activity has greatly slowed with cold temperatures.
Trees bare of foliage provide a better view of branch unions and limbs. Review tree canopies looking for cracks/splits, areas of wounding/decay/cavities that may have been covered, areas of discoloration, and if a support system is in place (cables and rods) be sure they are intact. Contact a certified arborist with your observations and determine if action needs to be taken. Be sure to discuss plant health care and potential issues that may arise; establish a program for the following year targeting any pests or pathogens prevalent in our area.
With trees and woody ornamentals, being proactive rather than reactive promotes good health and success year-round. Keep your eye out for those beautiful winter days where the temperatures may be crisp, but the sun warms your face. Get outside, stretch your muscles, and knock off a couple more tasks in the yard; your landscape will thank you for it come spring when it returns with great vigor and growth!