As the new year has opened with all the elements of winter: snow, ice, and below zero temperatures, most folks are not thinking about their landscape or gardens.  But I suggest that as you figure out where to relocate all that snow, you should be thinking about your landscape and how all that beautiful white stuff will affect your beloved landscape plants this coming growing season.

Damage Control

Heavy snow and ice on your trees and shrubs can damage their branches.  Taking your broom and gently slapping it against your beloved tree or shrub is all it takes to prevent damage.  Be gentle, extreme cold can make the branches unusually brittle.

When removing snow from sidewalks and driveways be mindful of where you pile it.  A lot of shrubs get their branches busted from folks piling snow on them.  Usually the worst damage is down inside the shrub at its base, and is unnoticed until late spring when a branch or large section of the shrub may begin to die from damage from the winter.  If you are hiring someone to do snow removal for you, be clear with them about where you want the snow piled (or not piled) and don’t be afraid to explain to them how important it is to not damage the landscape.  A lot of commercial snow removers work long exhausting hours and are not avid gardeners themselves.   They are often focused on getting their job done quickly and efficiently, which may be to the detriment of your landscape.

Along with the weight of the snow and ice, salt is the other big culprit in winter damage to the landscape.  Salt used for melting snow and ice on sidewalks and roadways often ends up in garden beds and around the roots of trees, shrubs, and perennials.  This salt can severely weaken or even kill your landscape plants.   Be mindful not to overuse salt, especially in areas near sensitive plants.  And when designing landscape areas near sidewalks and driveways, try to use plants that are not as sensitive to salt.

Water Harvesting

When all this snow melts and turns into water it will either soak into your landscape or end up as run-off and go into the street or to poorly drained areas of your landscape (or your neighbors).  Why not mindfully pile up that snow in such a manner so that when it melts it is absorbed into your landscape to be used through the summer by your plants.  Put snow from your driveway or sidewalk into your pond, rain garden, fill your rain barrels, or dump it into an area of your landscape that often gets drier than other parts in the summer.

As you dig yourself out, enjoy the snow, prevent damage, and realize how wonderful it can be for your landscape.