October and November are big months for winter preparation, and common tasks like irrigation blow-outs, perennial cutbacks, and burlap wrapping are on our teams’ agenda. Those tasks are absolutely necessary, but property owners and service providers who only focus on these common tasks may be missing out. Here are five winter prep tasks or tips you may be missing.
Fertilizing trees and shrubs
In New Hampshire, the winter months are a period of dormancy for deciduous trees, but this term is often misunderstood. While trees shed their leaves and stop growing, they’re still active and often require nourishment to survive. In the tree care industry, there’s a common saying that tree roots never sleep, especially in the fall.
It’s better to think of tree dormancy in the winter as hibernation. Like animals during hibernation, trees rely on readily available energy sources or stored sources during prior seasons to survive. When waking from dormancy, trees need to replenish their nutrients quickly. Unlike animals, they cannot seek nutrients and food by moving around, so they depend on the soil conditions where they are rooted.
By introducing lake-friendly nutrients through deep-root injections, our tree and plant health team can create nutrient-rich soil environments that aid the tree before and during dormancy as well as the recovery and growth period in the spring.
It’s also important to understand that evergreen trees only go partially dormant. While photosynthesis and growth may slow in evergreen trees, the processes persist throughout the year. As a result, they require nutrients regardless of the season.
Plan to prune
The periods of tree dormancy in the early winter and early spring are the ideal times to prune trees for health. While most pruning may be done any time of year, dormant trees are less likely to be exposed to pests or pathogens during pruning and recover well during the late spring growth period. We strongly recommend these periods if you plan to prune a significant portion of your canopy.
In addition to the health considerations of winter pruning, there are significant practical considerations. Frozen ground, with or without snow cover, reduces the impact of equipment moving on your property while reducing the damage falling limbs may create. The absence of leaves makes pruning efforts more efficient and clean-up easier. Finally, the ability to perform the work without disrupting outdoor activities makes winter pruning a wise choice.
Living in the Lakes Region means having a unique relationship with water and ice. We all know the damage that the freeze and thaw cycles can create on our lakes and waterways, but we often see this potential for damage ignored elsewhere.
Simply put, if you have standing water anywhere, it is advantageous to address and mitigate the issue before winter. Standing water often shows poor drainage and saturation beneath the ground. Any underground water above the frost line will undergo the same freeze-and-thaw cycle we see on the lake, creating dreaded frost heaves.
Frost heaves are a nuisance to drive over, but if they occur under your patio, rock walls, or even areas of your foundation, they can create significant damage. New Hampshire is littered with evidence of hardscape structures that were damaged or destroyed due to the freeze-thaw cycle and poor drainage.
Plan for snow
Snow in New Hampshire is inevitable. Damages associated with snow can be prevented, especially those associated with snow removal. The most crucial step in the prevention of snow removal damage is planning.
Whether you plan to shovel, blow, or plow snow, planning where to store the snow makes a big difference.
First, the snow will melt. When the snow melts, the water will travel in the path of least resistance. That means if your home, garage, or neighbor’s property is along that path, all that water will eventually make its way there. Instead, walk your property before it snows and designate an ideal place to store the snow. From there, you can communicate with your service provider where you want the snow stored or decide the best way to shovel or blow snow to achieve that goal.
Next, snow is heavy. Compacted snow, like that found in a snowbank, is commonly twenty pounds per cubic foot. This weight is similar to the same weight per cubic foot of an automobile. Piling snow onto plants, structures, or anywhere that cannot support substantial weight is an excellent way to experience snow damage.
Finally, snow will melt and refreeze. As a result, icy and hazardous conditions can be created if snow is stored in an area where snow melt may accumulate and refreeze. The ice formed is typically very thin, smooth, and transparent. On roadways, this is called black ice. On your walkway, we’d call it very dangerous. Preventing water accumulation in this cycle is the best remedy, commonly achieved through good planning before the first snowflake falls. Otherwise, pretreatment before temperature dip is an excellent approach to mitigate these hazardous conditions.
Fight the effects of salt.
If you’ve read any Belknap Landscape Blog posts or emails over the past several years, you’ll likely have heard us reference the LakeSmart and NH Snow Pro programs designed to reduce road salt’s environmental effects. We’ve presented this topic to the NHLakes Association membership (Click here to see the presentation). Still, there are instances regarding the application of salt or ice-melting chemicals that are beyond your control. In those instances, we suggest a few things.
In areas where you may have plants exposed to snow being pushed from the street, or salty runoff, it’s best to install hearty plants against these chemicals. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to keep plants healthy and, in many cases, replace dead plants, which is a drain on the time and investment you place into your landscape. Our friends at Millican Nurseries have a great list of plant choices for these instances (Click here to see the list).
Another option is to install temporary snow fencing as a physical barrier discouraging the introduction of dirty snow and slush onto your property. These fences have proven quite effective, but there are limitations to how and where they may be used. For example, roadways maintained by the state of NH must have 35′ of clearance on either side of the center line. That means structures or snow fencing may not be installed on the immediate roadside. Furthermore, local towns and cities may have ordinances. Before installing snow fencing, it’s best to research or have your service provider research to ensure you’re following local laws.