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Oh the Weather Outside: Preparing Your Yard for the Coming Winter

It’s finally here! Fall, the time to start closing up shop on our gardens, yards, and lawns. It’s time to put away the mower and clippers to bring out the snow shovels. No need to think about lawn maintenance or care for the next several months. But before we start singing “The weather outside is frightful“, maybe we should consider what the weather itself will do to our beloved plants surrounding our homes. In this post we will be looking at what considerations you should take when designing and preparing your yard for the long winter.

Let’s start with the grassy areas. In the springtime, snow mold is common issue for homes in the pacific northwest. Really they’re an issue wherever there is a ton of snow fall and grassy areas. However, this springtime issue can be preventable by taking the correct precautions in the fall. According to Lowes, you can avoid snow mold by “[mowing] your grass a little shorter than normal”, mulching or removing leaves, and using low nitrogen lawn food in the fall.¹ However, snow mold requires one major element. Yes, it’s snow.

Snow, in and of itself, is actually a good thing for plants. Snow is a natural insulator and add nutrients when it melts.² Snow can also protect from cold winds and ice. However, too much snow runs several risks. Without the proper drainage in spring, moss becomes an issue. Snow buildup on trees can break branches under the weight without proper trimming. Many types of perennial plants, such as roses, can die if not insulated correctly and assuming that snow will do the job is just asking for trouble. There are also many issues that arise when snow is removed.

The inland northwest is not really hit-or-miss with snow. It is more of a “how hard does the snow hit?” kind if question. Some years go by and the snow blower is only pulled out a few dozen times. Other years, it feels like an unwinnable battle with the relentless Mother Nature. In any case, we will have snow and it will need to be removed. The weight of snow alone is enough to destroy months of yard work. Often times, snowblowers will end up hitting bushes or running over smaller plants with the occasional tree. Even using salt to remove ice can add unnecessary heartache to an otherwise beautiful lawn. The damage caused by using normal snow removal methods is quite common and happens to everyone. The cost of replacing damaged plants gets expensive; however, there are several ideas we have found that will help you keep your yard looking great.

Landscape Network recommends a few helpful hints to preventing snow removal damage each of which we are able to help you accomplish.³ One of their first recommendations is designating a place to place the snow. It is a good idea to know where you can pile the pounds of frozen water. By the way,  one inch of snow usually weighs 1 pound per square foot. Spokane averages 45 inches of snow per year. The typical driveway width is 10ft and the length is 18-20 ft. That mean most people will expect 8,100 to 9,000 pounds of snow just from their driveway in a given year. That weight can bear down for months before it melts. So, unless you want your azaleas to break a few branches, maybe consider designing your yard for where you intend to  throw your snow.

It is becoming more popular to hire a snow removal service. While most of us like to remove the snow ourselves, occasionally we have someone else come and shovel for us. You have to ask yourself, “Do they know where the edge of the concrete is?”. It can be difficult to guess where the edges are located, but if the person removing the snow doesn’t know, they are liable to hit your yard or plants. The typical blade of a snow blower runs at 1700 rpm or 3 rotations per second. This means that by the time you realize that you are mulching a small bush, the blade will already have sliced into the bush a half dozen or so times. It’s best to design your yard in a way that plant life if highly visible during winter months or the edges can be easily found under the sheet of snow cover. There is still time to make adjustments and if you need help, we can easily answer questions.

What do pretzels, caramel, and ice have in common? People love to put salt on each of these. However, only one of these ways will be a sure fire way to cause yellowing in your lawn and weaken other plants. Yes, using deicer and road salt have detrimental effects on plant life. There are 2 concerns to be aware of: how much you are using, and where the salt lands. We recommend using deicer and road salt sparingly. Also make sure not to concentrate usage to a small area. Deicer/road salt can become concentrated over repeated use, especially around the edges of paths and driveways. A good trick is to shovel a bit of the ice after you have allowed the deicer to work for 30 min to an hour. Letting the melted ice refreeze will cause you to use more deicer than necessary.

When it comes to planning out your yard for the coming winter, you’ll have plenty to think about and even more to do. However, the work you put in now will save you even more work in the spring, and hopefully, some money. If you would like help in designing a winter friendly landscape, or just want some assistance with preparing for snow, give Copper Creek a call or email. As professionals, we are more than happy to help you save time, effort, and energy by making your garden landscapes thrive. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your landscaping needs.




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