Monday, March 30, 2009

Break Out the Silk Stockings

Images:  after an ice and snow storm

According to my garden diary, March and April ice & snow storms are not uncommon. The snow, by itself, doesn't do all that much damage. Sometimes it can be a nice blanket for emerging plants.

Unfortunately, this March 28-29 storm was proceeded by a lot of freezing rain. After freezing on branches, the wet snow had a ledge to keep those big fat flakes from sliding off.

Fortunately, as soon as the sun rose on the 29th, temperatures began to rise and melt both ice and snow. This kept the damage and electric outages to a minimum.

This little storm reminded me it's a good idea to do some pre-ice storm planning for specific species:

Because of their broad needle/leaf size (even during the winter), evergreens are particularly susceptible to ice or heavy snow damage.

Do not beat, shake, or try to remove ice or very wet snow from pines. This will inflict more damage. GENTLY shaking soft snow from branches will not hurt the pine.

Arborvitae most often have more than one leader trunk. Under heavy weight, they will bend outward. If they are in this position for a few days, they will not straighten and may damage the tree beyond repair.

Prevention is the only way to make sure arborvitaes are not permanently damaged. Use old pantyhose, reach inside the plants (placing one in the middle and one a few feet from the top) and tie all the leaders together. Do not force together but simple let the stocking gently and firmly touch each trunk. Tie securely. Check these stockings each fall to make sure they aren't too tight or to replace.

Neutral colored stockings do not show. They do not hold moisture against the bark. Used correctly, they do not rub a raw place on the bark. It is re purposing another used item.

Pantyhose are also a good way to brace new trees. Bracing allows them to grow a strong and straight trunk. It keeps the winter storms from whipping them.

Place a sturdy pole (metal fence posts work well and can be easily removed) three feet from the new tree. I recommend three (one at 12 o'clock, one at 4 and another at 8.) Securely tie one end of the pantyhose to the post, then loop the hose around the trunk twice, bring the end back to the post and tie. The three pantyhose should be tight enough that the tree stands gently straight. The hose should not be so tight it puts stress on the trunk. The hose should not be loose enough to allow rubbing or allow the tree to sway.

Not all new trees need staking. You are trying to prevent the entire tree from swaying in the wind to the extent it pulls the trunk away from the soil. Some trees can be whipped so hard, they break the root system.

Do not leave this stocking/brace system on the tree longer than two years. The root system may be damaged if a pole is removed after several years. A trunk that grows around a pole will have it's integrity compromised in addition to looking deformed.

Tree trunks need a certain of amount of movement to enable the cells to become strong and hard. I've even heard some gardeners say they regularly shake new tree trunks. I recommend staking new trees if they are soft and thin. Others may be staked as insurance. Using pantyhose to accomplish this task is easy and cheap.

Now let's hope this is the last ice/snow storm of the year!

No comments:

Post a Comment