Winter is rough on gardens. Heavy, wet snow can cause branches to bend and break. Ice, hidden under soil, pushes plants and bulbs right out of the ground — also known as frost heave.
When the temperatures rise, the ice melts, but the damage has already been done. If plant bases, roots, or bulbs are exposed for too long, they can be goners.
We can’t control the weather, but we can check on our plants now to help before they become susceptible to trouble.
Save Plants from Snow:
- Before the next big storm, mulch your plants with branches cut from evergreens. An old Christmas tree that’s still hanging around works perfectly.
- If you don’t have evergreens, mulch with about 4” of compost, bark chips, or regular mulch. Do not cover the crown, the place where the plant’s stem meets its roots. And don’t overdo the mulch. Too much now means soggy soil later.
- If you’ve already got snow, leave it. A thick blanket of snow insulates plants and helps prevent heaving.
- Check your plants often, especially new ones that haven’t had time to grow strong roots. Also, check plants with shallow root systems, like pincushion flowers (scabiosa) and rhododendrons. They’re very susceptible to frost heave.
- If you find a plant that has heaved, gently step or press down around it. Then re-cover the roots with soil and mulch.
- Tuck heaved bulbs back into the ground and cover with soil and mulch.
- Before a heavy snow storm, use twine or rope to tie up the stems of plants and shrubs to prevent breakage.
- After the snow falls, gently shake your plants to knock it off, or use a rake to remove it. Remember, cold weather means brittle branches, so be extra careful. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Avoid dumping snow from the upper limbs onto lower ones.
Jack Frost doesn’t have to get the best of your plants this season. Grab your rake and get moving.