Winter Tips for Gardening



Winter Gardening Tips Clearing snow from Shrubs

The advice to clear snow from shrubs is good sound practical advice. In earlier years I had ignored it, thinking it was just over complicating things when you could just stay indoors  in the warm, but snow does cause damages to the garden, especially shrubs.  The problem with snow is that it is heavy, and because of this it weighs down the shrub branches and causes damage. 



Cistus x cyprius  heavy with snow Cistus x cyprius cleared of snow


In this first photo (above left) of a Cistus (Rock rose) the shrub's natural habit is open branching from the centre and the snow has flattened it to the ground.  The snow is heavy with the shrub's  branches on the ground and if the snow freezes, it will freeze these branches solid to the snow on the ground and they can easily snap or get damaged. Clearing the snow allows the branches to lift back up again, releasing the tension from the branches, photo above right
Choisya with snow Choisya cleared of snow


Snapped Elaeagnus branchIn the images above is a Choisya before (left) and after the snow, (right). In this photo you can see where stems and branches are bent over, weighed down by the snow. There is a risk of damage to the branches of the Choisya and in the photo on the above  right, after the snow is released, the branches are standing up high again. If the snow remains, and accumulates or freezes, the branches pinned down by snow are at risk of snapping or fracturing.

This is most common with shrubs which have open centres. One year  after heavy snow I didn't clear the accumulated snow from Elaeagnus, and the result in the image left. Even though the shrub was established with a trunk  of about 10 cms in diameter and so was not a young shrub,  branches had snapped in the centre of the shrub and had to be pruned out, leaving the shrub not in a great shape and it's taken some years to grow back.

Snow really can cause damage to shrubs which are expensive to replace. The images of the bamboo below show the extent to which the snow can bend and weigh down the branches.


Bamboo under snow Bamboo cleared of snow

    Drain water butts

Ice damage to water buttCold weather can present  problems and it's a good idea to protect water butts against the winter cold. The reason is that the water inside the water butt freezes and expands. Result clearly shown in the image left it can split the plastic and the entire water-butt will fracture. The photo shows the full extent of the problem which happened during a sustained very cold period.  Caught out by the sudden very cold weather and the complete water-butt  froze and fractured.   An expensive oversight. 

To avoid this problem, before the  bad weather strikes disconnect and drain the water butt, and leave it disconnected until the worst weather has passed. If you have forgotten to do it it can be drained at any stage if there is a risk that bad weather may still arrive. To freeze a large solid a mass of water  requires a spell of sub-zero temperatures, which can be experienced in December & January with temperatures remaining below freezing for many days.

Simply re connect the water butt in the early spring. Even though we do get frost and snow, this sort of damage is caused by very low temperatures for a several days which generally will have passed by early March.

 Frosted grass

Keep off the frozen grassEver wondered about the advice not to walk on the grass in snow and frost?

It's true that walking on the frost frozen grass can  cause damage to the grass. This is because when the grass is frozen the leaves are brittle, with a result that when  the leaves are stepped on the grass is prone to snap and break. The image left shows flat bits where the grass  has been walked on which will leave brown marks where the grass is damaged, and may look unsightly in the spring. Given how hard it is to create a decent lawn its worth resisting walking on it during the very cold weather.