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Give snow the brush off? (1 Replies)

Posted January 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

As everyone on the east coast is aware, we’ve been having a lot of snow, which has prompted a very basic question. On the one hand, the weight of snow can bend and break and misshape conifers, so you should brush the snow off when you can. Or, the snow insulates the plants and you shoudl just leave it. What’s the right approach, especially in Maryland? Thanks from a renewed ACS member, Lydia Duff

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Posted January 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm

If you are starting to grow more cultivars that are not native to your area (but are Zone hardy) they may not be used to the load of excessive (to them) snow and ice in your landscape. In that case, you may have to prepare them for this in the late fall by securing them with twine or burlap, especially to the fastigiate conifers like arborvitae. Just be sure to get these restraints off the plants before they start to push out new growth in the spring.

This doesn’t help you now with icebergs hanging off your trees. I live on the Maine coast so we’re accustomed to big dumps of snow but because of the moderating effect of Casco Bay, the fresh snow will soon get soggy, heavy and turn to ice. For those trees that seem vulnerable, I wade out into it and with a long broom and try to gently brush off the big clumps, starting at the top. That said, if I miss the window between powdery snow and clump ice, I just leave it and hope for the best. Too often in situations where ice has formed, you do more damage in trying to get it off. In that you are close to the Mason-Dixon line, ice formation is most likely to happen more quickly and persistently.

Our ACS colleague, Bert Cregg at MSU’s Dept. of Horticulture and Forestry addressed this topic recently, here.

Bert issued a follow up on ice storms here.

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