Coping with extra work in a winter wonderland

A terrific storm just came through with lots of snow. For the most part, the extremely cold weather kept the snow light.

This is good in one way, because the snow load on trees and shrubs is not as heavy as the snow from a wet storm would be. However, a dry snowstorm provides less moisture to our plants. As I was shoveling and my husband snowblowing, I certainly was glad it wasn't any heavier!

Snow brings extra work for gardeners, besides shoveling or blowing. Branches can only hold so much weight before bending and possibly breaking.

As you use your snow blower or shovel, try not to blow or toss the snow onto the branches of trees or shrubs or the fragile stems of roses, weighing them down. On the other hand, gently placing the snow under the driplines of trees and shrubs is a good way to insulate them from the cold and provide some much-needed winter moisture. A mound of snow covering the grafts on roses can shield the graft from the drying winter sun, protect them from the cold and slowly water the roses at the same time. Packing snow around and over containerized plants (including potted Christmas trees after Christmas) can reduce the freeze and thaw cycle to these plants that often damages or kills the roots in the pots since they are not underground.

If snow is weighing heavily on your plants, remove it from the branches. Avoid hitting the plants with a broom or other tool because you can damage or break frozen limbs. A better method is to lift up the branches gently from underneath with a broom. The upward movement loosens the snow, which then falls off.

Every winter University of Nevada Cooperative Extension receives calls about whether chemical deicers damage trees and shrubs. There are various chemical formulations of deicers available and each works differently. These products all contain salts; most of which can damage plants, concrete and contribute to rusting. Pines in general are particularly sensitive to salts.

If you find using deicer necessary for safety, use a product containing calcium magnesium acetate in the minimal amount recommended on the label. Sand alone is another alternative. Kitty litter and ash are sometimes mentioned as other options, but they don't melt the ice and can make a mess that you track into the house.

For more information on deicers go to the national extension Web site: www.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at 887-2252. or .


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