In most cases, snow is a very positive thing for your plants and garden. Snow is a great insulator, and it melts to provide much needed water to dry plants in the winter. Heavy snow and ice buildup can cause devastating damage in the garden if limbs and trunks bend or break.  Here’s what you need to know about dealing with snow and ice in the yard and garden.

  • Natural Snow Cover: Even if it’s deep, a blanket or windblown drift of snow is nothing to worry about – in fact, it acts as an extra layer of insulating mulch!
  • Man-Made Snow Cover: Most snow damage is caused by snowplows, shovels, and snow-blowers. Pushed or mechanically blown snow is dense and slow to melt, and it can break a strong shrub right in two.
  • Bent Branches: Tender branches may become broken or weighed down with heavy snow and might have a hard time springing back into shape. The fallen snow can also melt and refreeze to form devastating ice.
  • Snow from Roofs: Carefully remove snow from roofs if possible. Consider trying to protect your shrubs right under the roof line from the heavy snow falling off the roof. Continue to monitor and remove the piles of snow that may cascade down onto your shrubs from the roof above.

How to Remove Snow from Shrubs and Plants

  • Using a broom or your hands: Always sweep in an upward motion, loosening the snow and allowing it to fall. Don’t sweep downward, as this could break an already bent branch. Do not shake the plant. The branches will be very brittle and already stressed, so disturb them as little as possible.
  • Avoid Accumulation: You’ll have much less damage to your plants if you remove snow after every couple of inches of accumulation, rather than waiting until it is deep.
  • Leave Ice Alone: Don’t try to remove ice, as the branch will likely break. Once ice has formed, you really should just wait it out.

Other Helpful Winter Tips

  • Keep Off Grass: Snow covered grass is fragile, easily uprooted, and damaged.  Reducing foot traffic will help the snow stay light and melt faster, and it will keep your grass blades firmly rooted.
  • Avoid Salt: Salt can damage lawns and plants when it runs off your driveway. If your plants have been exposed to salt, water and rinse them well as soon as temperatures are above freezing. Next time, use sand instead of salt for these at risk areas.
  • Prune Damaged Limbs: Head outdoors as soon as the ice melts to assess damage. Cracked branches can sometimes heal if they’re firmly tied back in place. Broken branches should be pruned away immediately (temps should be above freezing) to prevent injury and disease.  Ragged tears are very susceptible to infection, so remove damaged wood using clean cuts.
  • Wait for Spring: The extent of the damage often won’t be clear until spring, when you find out if your plant will be able to spring back into shape.