Prepping Your Yard For Spring

How To Get Your Yard & GardenReady

2023-03-15Updated: 2023-03-04 R&S Landscaping

Each year when warmer temperatures start to creep into April,  the excitement for spring's  arrival grows. Many days begin to consist of daydreaming about the beautiful flowers that come with the welcome rays of sunshine. But for some, just sitting in your favorite lawn chair and soaking in the rays is enough to get you antsy for the arrival of spring.

It’s easy to get swept up by the longer days and more frequent sunshine, but it’s also important to remember that just because colder temperatures are over, doesn’t mean there aren’t lasting effects from old man winter. 

For example, heavy snowfalls can cause broken limbs and rapid temperature changes can damage plant tissue. But even if these things happen in your yard, you can still have a beautiful landscape when spring is here to stay. While we all anxiously await sunshine and warmer temperatures, R&S Landscaping is here to provide you with the garden tips you need to prepare your yard.

Remove Broken Branches Remove Broken Branches On Trees and Shrubs

Branches that were broken or damaged by heavy snow, ice or wind need to be properly trimmed. Frayed limbs are like open wounds to your trees and shrubs. Diseases and insects are more likely to cause damage if not properly pruned.

Tend To Burns on Evergreens

In late winter or early spring, it is not uncommon to see brown or scorched tips on your broad leaf evergreens such as Holly & Rhododendrons. During the winter, bright sunlight and strong winds can dry out needles and broad-leaf foliage. Because the stems and roots of evergreens are frozen, water is unavailable to replenish the loss of moisture. 

Rapid drops in temperature after a warm sunny day can also cause further injury to the plant. This spring, as  evergreens break their dormancy, lightly prune branch tips to improve their appearance and encourage new growth. In future years, applying an anti-desiccant in late fall and early winter, can also help to reduce transpiration and minimize damage to the foliage.

Look Out For Bark Splitting

Bark splitting occurs when warm daytime temperatures are followed by extreme drops in temperatures in the late afternoons and evenings. Both young and old trees with smooth bark are the most susceptible when the sun warms the trunk in the winter. If you notice bark splitting on your beloved trees, R&S Landscaping can help.

Watch for Deer, Rabbit and Rodent Damage To Plants, Shrubs and Trees

Check your shrubs and evergreens for the tell-tale sign of winter browsing by our furry forest friends.  Deer, rabbits & rodents are all prime suspects in damage to plants, shrubs and trees in your landscape. Look for 45 degree angle cuts near the base of a plant. 

Sometimes corrective pruning can re-establish a plant’s attractive habit, but it may take a couple of years of attentive pruning to fully recover. Once plants begin to grow in spring, also look for signs of deer and rabbits nibbling on the emerging buds and shoots of your shrubs and perennials. After a cold winter with lots of snow coverage, these critters will be hungry. 

Protect any plants immediately that show signs of damage by installing a wire cage if possible or spraying repellent. In extreme cases, the damage may be too great and the plant will need to be replaced. At R&S Landscaping, we are experts in plant replacement and helping you protect your landscape investment. If you want to prevent future damage to any of your plants, consider our Plant Care Protection services.

Plant Winter Hardiness

Horticulturists rely on hardiness ratings to determine the potential survivability of each plant species in particular regions of the state. The ratings are based on field trials of the species in USDA-defined hardiness zones. Hardiness zones are determined by average low temperatures for a given region of the country, and not by extreme low temperatures. 

To ensure the long life of your landscape, at R&S Landscaping, we recommend using native plants within New Jersey’s hardiness zone. Those species that are marginally hardy to a particular zone are especially vulnerable to cold injury.

Know The Signs Of Winter Injury 

Because of limited root growth, it is not unusual to see newly-planted specimens show some signs of stress after a brutal winter. In the worst years, long established plants can die, including some native species. In most cases it is marginally hardy species that experience the most losses. Usually, winter damage does not become apparent until spring when growth normally resumes. 

Typically, winter damaged plants exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Slow to initiate growth 
  • Distorted growth 
  • Death of leaves and flower buds
  • Dieback of shoots and branches

Monitor plants as temperatures rise and your landscape begins to show signs of new growth. Cold injury will vary by plant species, age and general health, as well as site location and soil conditions. 

Snow cover is also an important factor. It provides protective insulation as it mounds up around the base of our shrubs and covers our perennials as well as protecting tree and shrub roots that are close to the surface. Snow cover also protects against the desiccating effects of winter winds.

Often, in the spring, you will see winter burn only on the portion of the plant that was not buried under snow! The Forsythia plant buds for example are prone to winter kill when temperatures dip to -10°F. After a very cold winter, blooms may appear on the lower part of the plant (the part protected by snow cover), while the upper branches will only have leaves due to the flower buds being winter killed.

Check for Lawn Discoloration Look For Lawn Discoloration

Early this spring, you may discover that your lawn has a grey, moldy look to it. Snow mold shows up after winters of heavy extended snow cover and is aggravated by excessive use of fast-release nitrogen fertilizers in the fall. It typically occurs in areas where snow drifted heavily throughout the winter or where snow was piled when shoveling.

Care For Damaged Plants

Before pruning out what appears to be a dead plant, wait! Use caution, as dead looking plants may still be alive. The extent of winter damage can best be determined after new growth starts in the spring. 

At R&S Landscaping, we recommend waiting until Memorial Day as the time for final determinations of overall health. It’s best to check for living tissue by taking a small pocket knife or hand pruners, and gently cut into the wood to see if the tissue is green or brown. 

Damaged plants take their time before new growth emerges. Broadleaved evergreens showing leaf damage will usually produce new leaves if branches and vegetative leaf buds have not been severely wounded.  Not sure what to prune? Contact the Professional R&S Gardeners for Help

At R&S Landscaping, our top priority is keeping your landscape in tip top shape. We are happy to come out and assess the damage winter may have caused to your outdoor oasis. 


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