Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Protecting Our Ornamental Plants Around the Yard

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Whether it be sun, wind, cold or snow, we live in a potentially harsh environment, especially in the winter.  From year to year it can be brutally difficult to keep plants alive.  I lost most of my pie cherry tree this year, and while it isn’t completely dead, I’m afraid I’ll have to do some extensive trimming next spring if it makes it through this winter.  With some of our smaller ornamental plantings though, what can be done to prepare them for winter and whatever the next 5-6 months holds?

The following information comes from Michigan State University Extension, but is still applicable in our climate.  Watering trees and shrubs, especially coniferous ones, before they go totally dormant can help them better tolerate winter conditions, which is something I’ve mentioned previously.  Our winter winds and southerly sun can dry out foliage of these plants and make them turn brown over the winter.
Knowing where our winds come from will help when looking over your yard for how to protect sensitive trees and other ornamentals.  For conifers planted in areas that regularly suffer from winter desiccation injury the best way to prevent this type of damage is to erect some type of barrier in front of susceptible plants to block the winter winds.  Barriers constructed of burlap or wooden or plastic snow fence can be used and should be installed soon to block the prevailing winter winds and reduce winter injury.

Burlap wrapped ornamentals provide added protection
against the winter elements.

In areas around the home where snow loads can accumulate over the winter such as from falling off the roof, from snow blowing or just from prevailing winds that cause the snow to drift in certain spots, the heavy weight of snow and ice can cause significant damage to trees and shrubs, especially if we get a wet snow.  Therefore, some type of protection should be installed right now around or over the top of plants most prone to damage to prevent snow from piling up on top of these plants that can eventually cause twigs and branches to break off from the trunk or worse.
After leaves fall off of deciduous trees and shrubs in the fall, homeowners can often see plant problems that may not have been very noticeable with the foliage on the branches.  A good example is crossing or rubbing branches and other structural defects in the branches of a tree or shrub.  Severe problems can be pruned out now if necessary or perhaps a homeowner can make a mental note to prune that plant before the new leaves emerge in the spring.

Overall, fall is a good chance for homeowners to inspect their landscape plants and begin to plan ahead as to what type of tree and shrub maintenance that may be needed in the next growing season.

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