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How to Protect Your Landscape in a Freeze


When temperatures drop, the right preparation will help keep your landscape safe.

March 7, 2024

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protect your turf from a freeze

Winter is an unpredictable time in many areas. For some, temperatures vary daily, with spring-like weather one day, and sleet falling the next. For others, winter can seem to go on forever. Regardless of when it settles in, cold weather is rough on the entire landscape so when the thermometer starts to drop you need to know what to do to protect your landscape.


Avoiding damage from freezing temperatures

Freezing temperatures pose a threat for plants and trees, but with the proper precautions and preparations, you can reduce the risk of winter weather damage.

To establish the right level of protection for your landscape, you should ask yourself a few key questions, including:

  • How long will the freezing temperatures last? How many days until it warms up?
  • What kind of wind, if any, will accompany the freezing temperatures?
  • Has it been raining lately or are things dry?

It’s also important to note the pattern associated with freezing temperatures. Is it just cold at night, with warmer temperatures during the day? Will freezing temperatures continue regardless of when (or if) the sun comes out?

Don’t forget to look at the weather patterns leading up to the freezing temperatures as well. If weather has been warmer, above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, consistently before a freeze, more preparation may be necessary than if it has been cold enough for your landscape to go dormant.


How to winterize your landscape

While your landscape’s dormant state is its first line of defense, it shouldn’t be its only protection. Here are ways you can minimize the risk of winter damage to plants and trees.


Mulch
Mulching helps insulate throughout the winter, trapping in heat and protecting the landscape from frost. Apply a layer at least 2-4 inches deep around the base of all plants, shrubs and trees. This will not only insulate the soil but also help it retain moisture.

When mulching around trees, make sure to extend the coverage underneath all outer branches. This helps protect small feeder roots that are close to the surface of the soil and are easily damaged by a freeze.

If there’s a chance for high winds to accompany freezing temperatures, you may also want to set up a wind barrier around tender shrubs using bales of straw or hay.


Water

Keeping plants well-hydrated helps them to withstand the cold and decreases the risk of them drying out. To adequately water, make sure you soak the soil down into the root area. It’s okay if a little water freezes on the surface of the soil. It will actually further insulate the plant as temperatures continue to drop.

If you water with a hose, don’t forget to fully drain it after use and properly winterize your spigot to avoid any damage there either. If using an irrigation system throughout the landscape, make sure you winterize it as well.


Prune

If time allows, it’s also a good idea to give your plants and trees a winter pruning. At least five days before freezing temperatures set in is recommended.

Pruning for winter involves removing dead or damaged branches and plant parts. Not only will this help keep the plant healthy, and encourage solid growth in the spring, it also ensures nothing will fall during a winter storm that can cause additional damage to your home or yard.


Covering delicate plants

In addition to winterizing your landscape as a whole, you should pay particular attention to any plant varieties that are less hardy and can be more susceptible to freezing. Newly planted greenery along with certain varieties of plants fit into this category based on what planting zone you’re in. Consider covering them with burlap or frost blankets to give the plants an extra layer of insulation. Covering also shields the plant from harsh winds and frost, adding 5-7 degrees of protection.

To ensure heat gets trapped between the cover and the plants, make sure to securely fasten the cover to the ground. If you’re using plastic covers, the plastic should not come into direct contact with the plant. Plastic can actually transmit cold air and can even freeze.

If temperatures stay in the extreme cold range for a few days, you can boost the heat going to your covered plants by wrapping strands of small holiday lights around them. Plug the lights in and recover the plants with the lights on. The lights will provide an extra boost of warmth without burning the plants.


Wrapping trees

Since you can’t fully cover delicate trees, such as young trees, you’ll want to wrap at least the trunk in burlap. Wrap securely enough to protect your trees from frost crack and freeze burn.

Certain trees, like young evergreens can be fully wrapped to prevent freezing winds from causing damage, but avoid bundling them up extra tight. You don’t want to risk crushing the foliage or cracking branches, which will prevent new growth come spring. 

For saplings and young trees, consider adding in a supportive stake for some added stability against winter winds. It will help keep trees from uprooting at such a critical time for to their health.


Save your landscape from freezing temperatures

Minimizing the risk of damage to your entire landscape due to freezing temperatures is possible with the right preparation and SiteOne has all the materials you need to set your winterizing strategy into place. To pick up top-of-the-line materials visit a SiteOne branch near you or place an order online at SiteOne.com or through our mobile app.

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