While we are all happy winter is over and the flowers are coming out, have you considered how your trees and shrubs have fared? We get to hide from winter in our homes, but our landscape is not so lucky. “You don’t want to have any regrets when spring gets into full swing and you suddenly realize a tree is hanging out of whack or your lawn isn’t coming in,” says Nate Shaw, sales arborist with Davey Tree. “If you forget to get on the calendar with your lawn-care company when spring storms hit, the industry is overloaded and you’ll likely find yourself on a two-week or longer waiting list.” Here are more tips to successfully dig your yard out from a foot of snow and ice.
Flood warning! When melting snow and rainfall occur, your landscape might suffer from standing water on partially thawed ground. Pay attention to shrubbery in high-risk (low-lying) areas.
Watch for bugs. Insect and disease issues in the landscape are usually worse in the spring and early summer, and many problems such as apple scab and emerald ash borer need to be dealt with proactively. Waiting until you notice the issue could mean it’s too late to respond.
Clean your landscape. Salt causes severe injury to plant buds and roots. Flush and rinse salt off areas of your landscape near roadways, walkways and driveways to help plants recover.
Remember your prunes. Pruning dead, diseased or unsafe branches reduces risk of further decline, promotes growth and improves appearance for summer when we use our yards more. If you didn't do so in the fall, deadhead and prune back ornamental grasses and perennials that die back each year.
Make hard cutbacks. Cutbacks can leave a tree or shrub looking thin, but in the early part of the season are less noticeable, and ultimately enable fuller growth and can clean up areas around overgrown windows and walkways.
Plant new trees. Spring is the optimal time of year to plant new trees and shrubs.
Fertilize. Before trees and shrubs enter peak growing season, apply a slow-release fertilizer to replenish nutrients and improve resistance to disease, insects and stressful weather. Balanced fertilization of the lawn and landscape plants can help them grow and overcome stress. Beware, though: Excessive fertilization can increase insect and disease issues later in the season.
Be proactive. “This point can’t be preached enough,” Shaw says. Have professionals look at your lawn at no cost to you: “Often we look and say, ‘Yes, you’re in good shape,’ but there are insect diseases that are prevalent, and a professional can suppress or eliminate them ... When all the leaves are gone, the tree is dead, and there’s no such thing as tree CPR.”
Increase curb appeal. By a whopping 11.3 percent, Shaw says. “A lot of it is people put such an emphasis on their first look at something,” he says. “If you have an unkempt jungle right next to a house with a well-kept lawn, it’s more obvious than you would realize,” and not in a good way.
Mulch, mulch more. The addition of organic matter to landscape beds is another way to improve landscape health by improving soil health—it conserves soil moisture, protects roots and controls weeds with a 1- to 2-inch layer of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch. But again, be judicious: Don’t overmulch the tree (also known as “volcano mulching”) Keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches away from the trunk or base of the plant, or you risk trunk rot.