Winter Gardening Tips

Preventing snow damage

  The advice to clear snow from shrubs is good, sound, practical advice. In earlier years I have ignored it, thinking this advice was over complicating things when you could just stay indoors in the warm, but snow really does cause damages to the garden, especially shrubs. 

 The problem with snow is that it is heavy, and because of this it weighs down the shrub branches and causes damage. Evergreen shrubs with an open center,  or cup shapes  which allow the snow to pile into the center are most at risk.

The two images below show in first photo (below left) a Cistus (Rock rose) the shrub's natural habit is open branching from the center and the snow has flattened it to the ground. The snow is heavy pressing the shrub's branches to the ground and if the snow freezes, it will freeze these branches solid to the snow on the ground, trapping them and they can easily snap or get damaged. 

Clearing the snow allows the branches to lift back up again, releasing the tension from the branches, photo below center. 

The third images shows a year when after heavy snow I didn't clear the accumulated snow from an  Elaeagnus, and the result is shown  in the image. Even though the shrub was established, with a trunk of about 10 cms in diameter, and was not a young immature shrub, branches snapped in the center of the shrub. As a result the damaged branches had to be pruned out, and since there were a good number of them, this left the shrub not in a great shape and it's taken  years to grow back.

Snow really can cause damage to shrubs which are expensive to replace. See also a Sunday Gardener Video about dealing with snow in the garden.

Drain Water Butts

ice damage to Water butt

  When a long spell of cold weather or freezing temperatures are expected it's a good idea to protect a water butt against the winter cold. When the temperatures drop the water inside the water butt expands as it freezes. The result is clearly shown in the image left, it can split the plastic and the entire water-butt will fracture. 

The photo shows the full extent of the problem which happened during a sustained very cold period. Caught out by the sudden very cold weather and the complete water-butt froze and fractured. An expensive oversight. To avoid this problem, before the bad weather strikes disconnect and drain the water butt, and leave it disconnected until the worst weather has passed.  To freeze a large solid a mass of water requires a spell of sub-zero temperatures, which can be experienced in December & January with temperatures remaining below freezing for many days.Simply re connect the water butt in the early spring. Even though we do get frost and snow, this sort of damage is caused by very low temperatures for a several days which generally will have passed by early March.

Don't walk on frozen grass

keep off frozen grass

It is not a myth, it really is a good idea to keep off the lawn when it is frozen.

  Ever wondered about the advice not to walk on the grass in snow and frost? It's true that walking on the frost frozen grass can cause damage to the grass. This is because when the grass is frozen the leaves are brittle, with a result that when the leaves are stepped on the grass is prone to snap and break. The image left shows flat bits where the grass has been walked on which will leave brown marks where the grass is damaged, and may look unsightly in the spring. Given how hard it is to create a decent lawn its worth resisting walking on it during the very cold weather.

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