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Is snow a bad thing for the garden

01:00 Thu 20th Dec 2001 |

A.� It all depends. It is certainly preferable to the days and days of torrential rain we have endured over the last couple of winters and it makes the garden look extremely beautiful while it lasts. It does, of course, herald cold weather which can do damage, especially to trees and shrubs, but actually a layer of snow can act as insulation against frost.

Q.� So what should we do about trees and shrubs under snow

A.� A heavy snowfall weighs down branches which can break or bend. Often when they are bent for any length of time, particularly young growth, they are set in place and are permanently splayed, spoiling the shape of choice trees and shrubs. This is particularly the case with conifers, often prized for their upright or pointed habit. Funny that, considering many of them come from Scandinavia.

It is important to get out there and knock down the majority of the snow, using something like a broom handle to get to branches you can't reach. You can save yourself the job by tying them in so the snow can't settle.

Other shrubs, deciduous and evergreen, can be damaged and it is worth inspecting after the snow has gone. Prune out the damaged branches and later on you can hard prune near the damage to encourage new shoots which will eventually restore the plants shape.

Q.� What should you do with lawns Sweep them

A.� No. Lawns are actually best left well alone. It is going to be very hard to avoid, especially if you have kids who want to build snowmen or have snowball fights, but if you really prize your lawn try to avoid stepping in it.

The leaves of the grass may well be frozen underneath if it is frosty as well and stepping on them will snap them, leaving dead patches when it thaws out.

Q.� Will it do any damage to emerging bulbs and herbaceous perennials

A.� You may get some initial damage to the flowers of bulbs but that is more likely to be cold winds and frosts. They are designed to able to force their way through snow, in fact it is one of the winter highlights in the garden so don't worry too much, they'll live.

The same goes for herbaceous perennials, which have the good sense to die back below ground level during cold weather. Again, the snow can actually benefit them by providing a protective blanket and stopping frost penetrating as deep as it might.

Q.� Paths need clearing. What's the best way to do it

A.� When you shovel the snow off a path you're likely to leave a thin but compacted layer than can freeze again and turn dangerous and icy.

Salt is often used on the roads but don't be tempted to use it anywhere the borders or lawns. Most plants hate salt, especially when it gets into the soil, and a heavy dose as the icy melts and is absorbed into the ground could prove lethal.

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By Tom Gard

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