By Lyn Chimera, Master Gardener – Cornell Cooperative Extension
It looks like spring is really trying to arrive. As anxious as we are to have this cold winter behind us, there are advantages to the slow melt. Slower melting diminishes flooding and roof damage with all the ice buildup.
The following are some tips for March:
– If you had shrubs or tree branches that were bent down to the ground and immersed in frozen snow, don’t try to pry or pull them out or force them back into place. Let any remaining snow melt and they should come back on their own. It might take a while—just be patient and let nature take its course. If the branch is not broken, it is a good bet it will return to its upright position eventually.
– “Eventually” could take quite a while, depending on the weather. When the sap starts flowing, the shrubs and trees can slowly return to life.
– The same advice holds for trees or shrubs that have been damaged. Don’t be too hasty in thinking they’re ruined. In many cases, they will come back with appropriate pruning. Remember the October surprise storm? Many shrubs and trees were taken down unnecessarily, because people didn’t wait long enough for them to recover.
– Some shrubs, like lilac, barberry and forsythia, and some roses, can be cut back to 6 to 12 inches above the ground and they will sprout back. Sounds severe, but it works in severe damage situations.
– Large snow piles on areas where spring bulbs or early bloomers like Hellebores can be removed with shoveling, just be sure to not dig down all the way to the soil. Leave 6 to 8 inches of snow as a protective barrier. This will protect the plants from sprouting too early.
– If you have black, crusty snow piles on any garden beds near roads or driveways you can shovel the crusty stuff off the top. That salty, gritty stuff can harm your plants. If your area has already melted, you can still use a rake to get some of this in a pile and removed from the area.
– Be very mindful of not walking on the soft, newly- exposed ground. This causes compaction of the soil and can damage the crowns of perennials that haven’t started showing themselves. Stick to paths and walkways until the soil dries out.
If you’re anxious to work with plants, give your houseplants some attention. It’s a perfect time for repotting, trimming and giving them a good shower. Some seeds can also be started inside come the end of March and beginning of April. Don’t fret, spring really is here.