When it begins snowing or sleeting in the Mid-South, we batten down the hatches. Roads are salted, schools are closed and that crucial run for bread and milk has been made. But do we think about our lawn and landscaping? Usually not until there are issues.
Turf: Sleet and freezing rain can lead to a coating of ice over your trees, shrubs and turf. Though it may seem counter intuitive, if you get enough warning, you should water your lawn before the temperatures fall below freezing (but use common sense, if your lawn is already moist from earlier rain, you don’t need to worry with watering). Having a moist root zone before temperatures drop below freezing helps insulate the roots and provides moisture until everything begins to thaw. Turf usually comes through an ice storm a little battered and matted down, but relatively unscathed. The greatest chances for damage come when the lawns have begun greening up in late winter and then get frozen off repeatedly or when the the bermuda is subject to low temperatures (mid-teens or lower) and high winds with dry soil. When this happens, the grass seems to almost literally “freeze-dry”. If you are worried about winter damage, contact your lawn care service provider. Most winter damage can be overcome in the new growth of late spring.
Landscape, Trees and Shrubs: Caring for trees and shrubs can be a little more complicated. The best word of advice is be patient! If limbs have fallen in the road, alert your local authorities and they will come remove them. Limbs that have fallen in your driveway or walkways can be carefully moved out of the way. Always keep in mind that your turf is susceptible to damage by equipment used to cut and clear fallen branches as well as by dragging the branches across the lawn. Considering this, it’s best to just wait until everything thaws. Though it may be difficult to let your yard look like a combat zone while your neighbor’s has been cleaned up, it is best for your trees, shrubs and lawn to wait until everything is thawed and has had a chance to dry out.
Once things have settled down, if your trees need some attention, contact your landscape maintenance contractor or arborist (most times, it is recommended that you NOT perform tree service for yourself). By giving your landscape and trees a chance to begin to recover, unnecessary pruning or tree removal can often be avoided. Also, the trees and shrubs will better tolerate any trimming and minimize permanent damage.
Shrubs, perennials and turf should be left alone as much as possible. Once the weather warms up a bit, then it is time to inspect for damage and make a plan. At that time, a better assessment can be made of what the true damages are and what is likely to recover quickly and well.