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How to Repair Winter Damage to Plants

Repairing and rejuvenating your garden after an extreme winter can take some time and effort. Learning how to assess plant damage, fix broken branches and tend to frost-burned plants can help you ensure that your garden makes a quick recovery from the cold winter months and thrives this spring.

Preliminary Cleanup

Preliminary Cleanup

If the ground has thawed, go ahead and pick up fallen branches and twigs. Gently rake out leaves and debris from your flower and vegetable beds. If you left ornamental grass standing over the winter for wild birds, early spring is a good time to trim it down to allow new growth to find the sun.

Branch Destruction

Branch Destruction

Trees and shrubs bear the brunt of heavy snowfalls and deep freezes, which can mean a lot of broken and damaged branches come spring. Unfortunately, you might not be able to save plants with more than a third of their branches lost. But with time and care, damaged trees and shrubs often return to a healthy state.

  • Wait until the end of winter to assess damage, and don't start pruning until early spring when temperatures are consistently warmer.
  • Make clean cuts to remove broken tree or shrub branches. Try not to cut bent branches right away - they might bounce back in place as the season progresses.
  • Cuts should be made at the branch collar (where the branch grows out of the trunk or parent branch).
  • For more extensive damage, call an arborist; don't risk harm or property damage by taking on difficult pruning tasks!
  • After pruning, sprinkle fertilizer around the roots to promote growth.
  • Keep checking for new growth on shrubs and trees in early spring to see if all your plants have survived. If you don't notice new growth by mid-season, it's best to replace the plant.
Frost and Salt Burn

Frost and Salt Burn

Fluctuating temperatures, frost, salt and ice-melting chemicals can all do damage in the garden. Act quickly to help your plants recover.

  • Have you noticed roots pushed out of the soil? When the ground goes through periods of freezing and thawing, it can cause plants to heave out of the ground. Replant as soon as you can dig to prevent root damage. For future, use Scotts® Nature Scapes® Mulch to cover and insulate soil before winter sets in.
  • If some of your plants have frost-burned leaves, remove them in early spring when the weather has warmed up.
  • To counteract the negative effects of salt and chemical ice melters, soak the soil in your garden with a hose or sprinkler. Repeat after a few days for a thorough flush.
  • While it's important to be patient with damaged plants, it's also good to replace the ones you have determined are dead by mid-spring so new plants have a chance to grow and thrive.

With some effort, you can nurture your plants back to good health after a winter of extreme temperatures. Remember to keep an eye on damaged plants and ask an expert if you're not sure how to proceed.

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