Question: We’ve had a lot of snow this winter and it’s piled up along the drive and walkway. Are all these snow banks going to damage my trees and shrubs?
Although Connecticut seems like the new arctic right now, spring is just around the corner (at least I hope so). With all the snow piled up from this season there are some preventative measures you can take to help your trees and shrubs get a healthy start to the growing season before the snow melts.
The Problem With Snow Banks
First, a good majority of the snow banks that are pushed up against your trees have large amounts of salt, sand or de-icing chemicals in them. As the snow melts, all these chemicals will leach into the soil and can poison your trees and shrubs.
Younger trees and shrubs are at a higher risk than mature trees since the roots are contained in a smaller area. In most cases, this results in salt damage, which stresses the tree but probably won’t kill it. However, in high concentrations the chemicals can kill your trees and shrubs.
Second, large mounds of snow piled up against trees and shrubs will start to melt and turn into blocks of heavy ice. As the spring melt progresses, these piles will get lower and lower. If there are branches encapsulated in the snow bank then all of this weight will break them. This is more common with evergreens and shrubs since they have branches from ground level up.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Landscape
This is the time to break up those snow banks left from plowing, particularly those that are around young trees and shrubs. Move the snow elsewhere so as it melts the runoff will flow away from the tree.
Focus on snow that was removed from walkways and paved surfaces where deicers were used. Clean snow melting off will not pose any chemical risk to your landscape.
Also look at runoff areas from paved surfaces. If all the melt water is going to flow towards your tress and shrubs look at redirecting the flow. You can buy sand bags or long socks full of sand from a hardware store or you can literally fill an old sock with sand. Lay them on the ground to direct melt off away from trees.
Take note of melt off flow this spring. If it’s problematic then change where snow is piled next season. It’s best if you can keep these piles away from trees and shrubs and down hill from them. This way, it will leach these chemicals away and make for a much healthier landscape.
As the ground thaws start a weekly watering regimen for a month or so. This may seem strange given that the ground is already wet but it will help to flush salt and chemicals from the ground and ensure healthy trees and shrubs for spring.
For more information, see our article on salt damage to trees.