Protect Your Landscape from Winter Stress | Kansas City Landscaping

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    We’ve discussed how you can protect your lawn from winter damage, but grass isn’t the only plant that can have a tough time in the snow. You also need to protect your landscape during the winter months. Trees, shrubs, bushes and bulbs can all be stressed from freezing temperatures, strong winds, and even from the sun. Even unseasonably warm temperatures can ruin a bulb’s performance in the spring.

    You’ve invested a lot in your pristine landscaping and you don’t want to let winter damage your plants, especially not to the point you need to replace them. So, what can you do to protect each type of plant in your landscape from winter? We’re created a guide that will tell you everything you need to know to protect your landscape in winter.

    How Winter Damages Shrubs and Trees

    Trees and shrubs lose their foliage and go dormant for the winter. They don’t grow but rely on their stored energy to just coast through the cold. Still, anything that happens to the plant over the winter has to be dealt with in the spring. For best health, you want your plant to be able to focus on growing, not repairing. Plus, a plant can be damaged beyond repair over the winter. How?

    • Wind damage: Strong winds can rip branches from plants and even pull them from the ground.
    • Root exposure: Shifting winds and snow can move dirt around and expose plant roots to the air. Roots cannot handle being frozen the same way a plant’s branches can and they may die if they get too close to the surface.
    • Lack of humidity: Winter winds also strip the humidity from the air. With less moisture, plant branches and bark become more brittle and susceptible to damage.
    • Animal damage: As fall and winter weather sets in animals get more desperate for food. They may turn to nibbling on your plants, even if they avoided them all summer.
    • Early thaws: Plants don’t have calendars. They can only tell spring is coming by rising temperatures. So, if things get too warm in winter they may begin to grow as if it’s spring. This is a problem because that new growth will be damaged when things freeze again and the plant will have lost some energy it should have dedicated to spring growth.
    • Sunscald: Even when it’s freezing out, the noon sun can be powerful and heat up portions of a plant, especially young tree bark. This can cause cracking and other damage, which may even kill the young tree over time.

    Use Mulch for Protection

    One of the best ways to protect plants from both freezing and unseasonably warm winter temperatures is to add a new layer of mulch in the fall. Mulch acts as an insulator and can protect the plant from any shift in temperature. It keeps the ground frozen during warmer weather, but also raises the temperature of the soil in the worst cold spells. Just be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from any tree trunk, otherwise, it may encourage rot and mold growth.

    Discourage Animal Damage

    If you notice any of your plants being nibbled, you can protect them from further damage by wrapping it in burlap. Just don’t wrap too tightly or tie around the main truck of the plant, as that may kill the plant by restricting the flow of nutrients through it. Remember to wrap the same plant next year, as the animals will remember it.

    Protect Young Trees in Two Ways

    Young, struggling or small trees can be protected from the winter sun with paper tree wrap or specialized paint. Both work to block the sun and reduce the amount of heat the bark has to deal with. Ideally, this will prevent cracking, sunburn and other heat stress.

    Plants that need sun protection through the winter likely also need wind protection as their vulnerable state may make them more likely to snap or be pulled up in the wind. The best way to do this is to plant or install a windbreak. More mature or fats-growing trees are excellent windbreaks, but interlocking retaining walls, or even just a new shed, can work too. Also, some tree guards are very sturdy and can provide physical support as well as block the sun.

    Do you need to protect your landscape for the winter? You don’t have to do all the work yourself. The High Prairie Outdoors offers turnkey landscape maintenance throughout the year, including prep for winter weather. If you’d like help with your outdoor spaces, click “Get Started” now.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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