With the big snowstorm on the horizon this weekend, you may be wondering how to best protect your landscape. My answer basic answer is 1) be proactive about a few things, 2) don’t worry too much about most plants and 3) be thankful for the moisture.
There are two big factors with spring snowstorms: snow and cold. Let’s talk about each one in more detail.
The skinny on snow
Unlike the white powdery stuff that falls in mid winter, spring snow often holds a lot of moisture. The weight of heavy snow can cause some issues, particularly for trees and shrubs. However, the moisture from the snow is a fantastic benefit this time of year when plant roots are on the verge of growing.
That being said, with 7-12 inches predicted over Saturday and Sunday in my area, it’s possible that the snow could be heavy enough to warrant attention.
Here’s what I recommend.
Knock snow off branches of trees and shrubs if it starts to really accumulate. You can read more about this here.
Think about having valuable trees structurally pruned. This isn’t something you can do before the storm, but it’s a good time of year to do something about it. Structurally pruned trees are much better at withstanding storm damage than unpruned trees. Learn more about structural pruning here.
If you haven’t addressed this issue yet, think about calling an arborist or tree care company after the storm. February and March are a great time of year to prune trees and shrubs. They will get very busy beginning in March, so call soon to get on their schedule.
What about the cold on Saturday and Sunday nights?
This is more of a concern, in my opinion, but much harder to do anything about. The cold weather can cause frost damage on buds and leaves that are starting to come out of dormancy. It’s impractical to cover many plants with frost blankets, so most Coloradoans watch and wait.
We may sacrifice a few flowers. So far, the only plants I’ve seen begin to bloom are snow crocus and Iris reticulata, the tiny irises planted as bulbs in the fall. Those are likely to be okay because they are short enough to be covered with snow before the cold sets in. Snow can be a great insulator.
The flower buds of some shrubs that bloom in early spring, like forsythia, Nanking cherry, and flowering quince, could be damaged if it gets cold enough. Let’s hope that they are still dormant enough to have full cold hardiness. If you have a specimen plant that’s worth protecting, you might want to cover it with a sheet tonight or tomorrow morning.
Perennials, ornamental grasses and groundcovers that have started to green up are likely to be okay. Since the plants that have actively started growing now have pretty good cold tolerance, they will be fine most likely if they are blanketed with snow before the cold night freeze. The tips of leaves may be frost damaged, but the overall health of the plants will be perfectly fine. You can trim any unsightly damage off later once it turns brown.
What about the grass?
Don’t worry about your lawn. Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue will remain unphased under a blanket of snow. In fact, the moisture from the snow, once it melts, will do wonders for your lawn. You might notice it starting to turn green next week. Snow only causes problems on lawns in Colorado if it remains in place for several months.
So stay cozy out there. Before you know it, the warm weather of spring will be back!