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Winter damage of one sort or another

Winter damage to Pine
Teri Knight

Take the temperature of any Minnesotan and it’s HOT about the COLD. The winter of 2013/14 will go down in the history books, or likely, Wikipedia, as the worst since 1936. While some steady warming temps are on the way, it should’ve happened weeks ago and I know more than one person that’s hot under the collar about it! They’re rightfully concerned about winter damage.

I talked about salt damage a couple of weeks ago and also the damage of heavy icing breaking some of our tree limbs and more delicate shrubs. A neighbor of mine had someone plant 3 new 4 foot pine trees last summer. They never watered them again. As you can see in the picture, those pines won't survive. There are so many things wrong with the way they planted the trees. First, in the heat of summer, second that they never watered them again. And, likely, they were not planted properly to begin with, although I didn't see that part. Can you tell it irks me?! If you're going to spend the money, then plant properly. Here's a link to a segment I did with Leif Knecht from Knecht's Nursery on Dig In Minnesota on tree planting practices. I had winter damage from the frozen ice killing parts of my yew.

There’s also the damage to our lawns. Before you do ANYTHING, your soil needs to thaw out and dry out. One thing I would urge, if you still have piles of snow, (and I know there are places up north and also in shaded areas) rake it out GENTLY so that it thaws quicker. You could have snow mold. That can happen when snowfall has sat on lawns for long periods of time. Snow mold is a fungus that’s been sitting there all summer in plant debris.

If you left piles of leaves and then the snow covered it, you’ll definitely want to rake that out. Again, gently. We have two types of snow mold here, pink and gray. The University of Minnesota Extension has an article on snow mold and pictures from last year.

One thing you can do to help prevent snow mold is to dethatch your lawn. This is a tough procedure on your lawn so you want to do it when it’s got the best chance of recovery. You still need to wait until the soil has thawed and is not wet and has warmed up to about 50 degrees, then rent a dethatcher. Thatch is that brownish layer of dead grass, leaves, and other plant debris. After dethatching, you should aerate your lawn. You can then reseed bare spots. The most important thing with reseeding is making sure those seeds are touching soil. If you only have to do spot repair, the same rules apply in regard to soil moisture level and gentle raking. But you can just rake the specific area, mix up a 5 gallon bucket of soil and seed for your sun/shade conditions and keep moist until the seeds sprout. Check out my website and radio show Garden Bite with Teri Knight, heard weekdays across Minnesota.

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