Spring may be the furthest thing from your mind right now.
Still, as they say, there’s no time like the present to prepare for the future.
With that in mind, let’s look at what you can do now to protect your kids and pets from garden-related hazards when the weather turns warm.
Understanding how cold affects plants and trees
Plants have been living with winter’s wrath for a long, long time.
Over the years, they have adapted pretty well to what the weather throws at them.
In some cases, however, extreme cold can overpower a tree or shrub’s defences in ways like these:
- By causing frost cracks. These occur most often when temperatures gyrate from sub-freezing to mild and then back again. The trunk develops vertical cracks that can cause the entire plant or tree to collapse.
- By killing roots. In most instances, the earth protects a plant’s root system from freezing weather. However, in severe cases, the cold can cause permanent damage that may escape notice until spring, when the tree or plant begins to sag or even fall over.
- By weighing down limbs. Snow and ice can overwhelm your tree’s limbs, according to the University of Illinois extension service, causing them to crack or break entirely.
- By causing mice and other small animals to girdle trees. Wild creatures get pretty hungry over the winter. Sometimes they resort to eating bark, which cuts off the flow of nutrients from the soil into the tree or plant and causing it to literally starve.
- By leading to salt-related damage. This occurs in areas of the country where road crews use rock salt to prevent ice formation on roads. This material can leech into the surrounding soil, where it poisons plants and trees.
Now let’s look at how to safeguard yourself and your loved ones from these problems.
Go on patrol
Choose a day when the mercury is really plummeting, bundle up in layers, and head outside to check your trees for cracks, missing bark, and other signs of trouble. Note any problems, and consider having the tree trimmed back or even removed. It’s crucial that you never shake a distressed limb, as this can bring it crashing down upon you. You should steer your loved ones clear of these hazards until a professional landscaper or tree service can check the situation.
Adding a layer of mulch around the trunks of your trees and shrubs can mean the difference between life and death for these plants, according to The Spruce. Mulching can also protect perennials in your garden during the wintertime.
Perform an after-snow inspection
There’s nothing like a layer of pure white flakes to give your home real winter charm. But snow can hide serious dangers beneath its all-enveloping blanket, so check around your property as soon as the snow melts for problems like these:
- Tools, large branches, or other objects that can create trip hazards.
- Holes or gulleys caused by winter precipitation or furrowing animals.
- Remaining snow banks or drifts that may contain roadway salt. Avoid shoveling this leftover snow onto desirable plants and trees, as it can cause root damage later on, according to Better Homes & Gardens.
- Loose railings or steps. Sometimes winter weather can make fasteners shrink and expand, causing them to loosen. Tighten bolts and screws right away if you notice these issues, then do so again closer to spring.
- Walkway cracks or uneven surfaces. Frost heaves can cause these problems through repeated freezing and thawing. Cordon off affected areas, and repair the damage as soon as possible.
Taking care of these problems now can save you from having to worry about them come spring. One day soon, you’ll look up into a clear summer sky and thank yourself for your foresight and hard work. What better way is there to celebrate the return of warm weather?