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How to Prepare Your Landscape for Winter

Northern Virginia Landscape Sunrise Landscape and Design

Winter in Northern Virginia can be brutal on your landscape. Between snow, ice, wind, and cold, it seems like you never know which plants will make it until next spring. With a little planning and preparation, though, it is possible to winter-proof your lawn, trees, shrubs, and other plants. All it takes is a little ingenuity – and some burlap. Follow these tips to prepare your landscape for winter:

1. Fertilize your lawn

Give your lawn one more mineral boost so that it has all the nutrients it needs during the cold winter months.

2. Cut your lawn one last time

There’s a lot of debate on how short you should cut your grass for the winter. In Virginia, anywhere from two to three inches should be short enough to avoid issues with snow mold, but it’s best to ask a professional what works best for your turf type.

3. Remove debris from your yard

No one wants to run over a stick or other debris while sledding! It’s also good to get rid of sticks and branches now so that they don’t deteriorate and turn into tiny bits of shrapnel when you run the mower over them next spring.

4. Prevent animals from snacking on your plants

The lack of growth in the fall sends animals like deer and rabbits on a rampage through your garden. Cover young tree trunks with hardware cloth or fencing with very small openings to prevent nibbling. If animals have decided to snack on other plants, you can either cover them with mesh or garden fabric, or you can try an animal repellent spray.  If deer are a problem, Sunrise Landscape and Design is trained in the proper use and application of DeerPro, the only deer repellent that is approved by the EPA.

5. Prep trees for the weight of snow

Hire a professional to prune dead or broken branches from your trees; they will know what pruning works best for different tree species. Also, you can ask the professional whether or not any trees need bracing or cabling to make it through the winter.

6. Water plants, especially evergreens

Continue watering your plants until the first freeze. After that, try to water your young and broad-leaf evergreens at least once every couple of weeks throughout the winter if it’s dry.

7. Fertilize trees after the first hard frost

Once the first big freeze has made your trees dormant, fertilize them so that they are ready for growth when spring comes around.

8. Consider spraying evergreens with an anti-desiccant spray

Anti-desiccant sprays are often used on broad-leaf evergreens like holly, rhododendrons, and boxwood, to slow water loss and prevent winter burn. Make sure to read directions and avoid contact with narrow-needled evergreens, however, because anti-desiccants can poison them.

9. Spread extra mulch for insulation

For perennials that need extra protection, spread an additional layer of mulch two to four inches thick in November.

10. Wrap shrubs in burlap

Burlap also can serve as an excellent wind barrier for evergreens.

11. Protect fragile plants

If plants are extra vulnerable, create a teepee out of bamboo sticks and burlap to shield them from snow and harsh winter wind. Burlap is great because it blocks the wind, but is breathable. Wrap the trunks of thin-barked trees, like maple and cherry, with cardboard tree wrap or plastic to avoid frost cracks. Lastly, for some extra stability, try tying together branches of trees that are prone to splitting (like arborvitae and boxwood) with hosiery or another soft fabric.

12. Move some plants indoors

When in doubt, bring it indoors – or at least into the garage. Most perennials that hang out in planters during warmer months need a little extra protection from the elements.

13. Plan your snow piles

Make sure you won’t be piling snow on top of delicate plants. If you can, spread snow out after shoveling to avoid compaction in certain areas of your lawn.

14. Consult a professional about salt and deicing agents

Whatever you plan to use on your driveway and pathways will inevitably end up in your yard – and may end up poisoning your plants. Try to use calcium chloride, potassium chloride, or calcium magnesium acetate if you must use a melting agent. If not, try sand or cinders.

15. Refrain from shaking snow and ice off branches

Once the snow has landed, the damage is done. Don’t shake frozen limbs because they are brittle and prone to breaking. Allow the snow and ice to melt naturally.

Ice, wind, and snow can do plenty of damage to your landscape during the winter. It may sound like a lot of work, but a few hours spent preparing your landscape for winter may prevent days worth of replanting in the spring. If you need some help prepping your Northern Virginia Landscape, contact Sunrise today. We will make sure that all your hard work this fall is rewarded when spring rolls around.

Sunrise Landscape and Design is Northern Virginia’s premier landscaping company offering a full range of landscaping services. Our landscape and design services include hardscapes, landscape lighting, irrigation, and water features. Our property maintenance services will keep your landscape vibrant year-round with mulching, lawn mowing, tree pruning, garden cleanups, edging, and mosquito/deer control.

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What are those bumps on my branches

Bumps on branches, leaves or stems, that may be a range of colors and sizes, but certainly don’t seem like they are part of the plant, can be concerning when looking at your landscape. Many people mistake this condition for a fungal disease. It’s more often actually a type of insect known as scale.

There are over 150 individual types of scale insects present in the state of Virginia. Some have little to no impact on plant health. Others can severely damage or even kill valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees. Scale causes damage by attaching to the plant and sucking water and nutrients from its bark or leaves. This takes away from the resources available to support the growth and health of the plant. A heavy infestation can even kill an entire shrub or group of shrubs if left untreated.

Scale insects often have a very specific plant they prefer, others are more open-minded and will attach to a wide range of different groups of plants. One shrub that has drawn attention for being prone to infestation and damage by scale insects in our region is cherry laurel. This versatile evergreen plant has several forms that are common and beautiful in many applications, and it is seen all over, in large hedges for screening, and more compact foundation plantings. It’s a great plant. But yet, it is prone to a scale that attaches to the stems and in many cases causes die-back or death of plants.  Another common landscape shrub affected by scale is Euonymus. This scale is particularly unsightly as it can cover the leaves as well as stems of the plant. Both these and other common scale insects in our region do NOT have to be viewed as a catastrophe for your garden. If observed and diagnosed in a reasonable amount of time, each scale can be treated and controlled to prevent frustrating and expensive losses.

Treatment of scale varies widely depending on the type of scale and time of year. Soft scales have a soft covering over their bodies that can be penetrated by appropriate chemical controls. Armored scales secrete a hard covering over their bodies as adults that protect the scale while it feeds on your plants. This armor is impenetrable to certain common pesticides; therefore one must approach treatment in an intelligent and informed manner that is appropriate to the situation. Identifying the specific pest that you have and knowing its unique life cycle and vulnerabilities will enable you to successfully treat your problem. You can use resources provided by the Virginia and Maryland Extension services to help identify your pest and also recommended treatment. Many effective products are available for purchase and application by homeowners.

You can always count on us at Sunrise Landscape and Design to monitor your property and treat for any potential issues, such as scale. We offer a range of options to provide you with Integrated Pest Management services. Our garden visits, and IPM treatments are both aspects of care that help monitor, identify and treat problems in a timely manner so that you won’t have to worry about those strange bumps turning into big issues. We work with you year-round to protect your investment in your home and landscape. Contact us to get a landscaping quote today.