JoAnne Skelly: Wet snow: The Good and the bad

Hurrah for wet snow! We had two feet of snow at our house. I don’t have to water the trees for at least a month.
However, I did notice when I drove into town, that Carson City received much less snow. You will have to judge whether your trees received enough moisture. Did it soak the ground 15 inches to 18 inches deep? It may be difficult to tell if the ground is frozen and you can’t push in a long screwdriver or soil probe.
As I walk around our neighborhood, I have noticed broken and torn limbs damaged by the weight of the snow. Sometimes, if a branch isn’t too big and is still mostly attached, you can prop it up, splint it and wrap it in hopes it will rejoin the original tissue.
Branch repair must be done immediately after damage and the tissues must match up almost identically to mend together again. Often this is not possible and a limb must be pruned out to avoid further damage to what remains of the tree.
My neighbor lost a side leader in a pine tree. It is dangling by torn tissue and needs to be cut out, so it won’t tear the bark further down the tree. The good news is that once it is removed, an axillary branch will take off as a new leader. After a few years, the gap won’t be noticeable.
Every day during the three-day storm, I went out and pushed the heavy snow up and off my dwarf Alberta spruce, a burning bush and a skunkbush sumac to reduce form-changing damage.
Notice I said “up and off.” By gently lifting the snow up and off rather than knocking it down and off, I didn’t break any branches. Sweeping down puts added weight on the end of the branch and encourages stem/limb breakage. I found that a lightweight plastic rake worked better than a broom.
For my caryopteris (bluebeard) and spiraea I actually cleared them by hand, gently digging them out of the snow handful by handful, since they were buried completely and broke very easily. I had to be careful where I stepped to avoid compacting the snow into hard snowballs on the poor stems.
While I’m glad for the moisture, I am also glad we don’t have this much snow week after week. It’s a lot of work!


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