Ice and Snow… Garden Friend or Foe?

Winter’s weather has just begun!

Love the snow? From a gardener’s perspective, it can be a gift in the garden! Snow is a great insulator; its stabilizing effect on soil temps for hardy plants is a real plus. And snowmelt is always a welcomed source of soil moisture for plants.

Dislike the snow? From a gardener’s perspective, it can be problematic in the garden! The heavy weight of snow (and ice) laden branches can cause cracks and splits. Any broken branches can be removed when you have easy access to the plant(s). If unsure, let it go until spring. Your safety comes first!

Light snow can be carefully removed with a soft broom in upward sweeping motions. Once the weight is removed, the plant will gradually return to its normal position. If there’s ice under that snow, be careful if you attempt to remove it. Better to leave it alone!

Plants, like boxwood, are often subject to splitting from heavy snow and ice. There are ways to avoid this kind of damage. Constructing a protective cage with lathe or snow fencing around or over the plant is an option. Stakes and sisal can be used to secure the interior branches to reduce the stress of snow load on the branches.

Those of us that enjoy gardening know ice can wreak havoc on the landscape. What should you do when your prize plants (especially birches) are cloaked in layers of solid ice? Probably nothing; removing the ice could do more harm than good. There will be time to assess the landscape for any winter damage when warmer temperatures return.