Winter Garden First Aid

Are you dealing with a frozen garden encased in ice? The first major winter storm of 2016 has hit the Willamette valley and left a beautiful, yet damaging, wake in its path. Now that the brunt of the storm has passed us, it’s time to start the clean-up in your garden, and if necessary, providing “first aid” to your trees, shrubs, and plants.

-Do NOT attempt to knock ice off of plants that may be coated in it. The ice acts as an insulator and helps protect the brittle limbs from more damage. The ice will also help protect plants as cold temperatures often accompany ice storms.

-If the damage is light, prune any broken branches. Repair torn bark or rough edges around wounds by using a sharp knife to cut away jagged edges. Rough edges around wounds can invite insect and disease problems, so it is better to cut the broken branch off cleanly rather than leave a stub.

-Cut the damaged twigs and limbs back to the nearest strong, healthy wood or bud. When pruning back to healthy wood, make the pruning cut nearly flush with the nearest side limb. Cut to the swollen area called the “collar.” Do not leave a stub or snag.

-Do not walk on your frozen lawn. You could permanently damage or kill the grass.

snowy-fountain2-Keep any water features running in the cold to keep the water circulating. The other option is to completely drain the feature. You do not want the water to freeze, which could potentially destroy the pump and motor.

-Check with your insurance company. If branches have fallen on or damaged your home, car, or personal property, be sure to take good photos. Many times homeowner’s policies will cover the cost of damage or replacement.

-Contact a certified arborist or tree care specialist if the job surrounds large limbs, hard to reach areas, or high damage. Check our contractor directory on our website for a professional near you.

-Call your utility or electric company immediately if there are branches touching or damaging power lines. Do not attempt to move any downed power lines or trim trees near them.

-If your tree or shrub limbs are bent but not cracked, don’t cut off the entire limb immediately. Instead, remove extra weight from the limb by first cutting off smaller expendable side limbs. Then leave it alone. With time,
the limb may straighten out.

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-Try to use the 50/50 rule in deciding if a plant or tree can be saved. If less than 50% of the plant is damaged, you can likely save it. If more than 50% of the plant is damaged, it is likely time to look at removing and replanting in the spring.

-After pruning, give your tree time to recover. Trees are injured for life and cannot heal themselves in the same way that humans regenerate tissue after a cut. Eventually new wood grows around the injury and seals it off; it’s the tree’s way of defending itself against wounds.

-Plan for the future. If you know of predicted freezing temperatures coming, you can protect some of your plants by putting a lightweight breathable cover over top of them such a cotton sheet or blanket. This will help protect the plant from ice forming next time.

-Turn those damaged limbs into compost by dropping off at our yard debris collection sites in Eugene and Springfield. We charge $4 a cubic yard and the average pickup holds 1 1/2 to 3 yards if filled to the cab.

 

Sources: Lane Forest Products Employees, OSU extension “Trees may need ‘first aid’ after winter storms”, “Repair storm-damaged trees and shrubs promptly