Winter Damage in The Garden

2018 Winter’s Effect on the Landscape

Winter’s wrath always shows itself in the garden.  Sometimes it’s in a dramatic way, other times in subtle way. Let’s take a quick look at some of the problems caused from this winter’s weather.

Windburn/Winter Kill:

The cold, dry, winds of winter cause the leaves to lose their moisture more rapidly than it can be replaced by the root system.  The leaves then turn brown to tan in color.  Sections of the plant, or the whole plant can be affected.  This tends to hit broad leaf evergreens very hard.  Usually the damage does not show up until the temperature begins to warm up in late winter and early spring.  However, this year with the extremely cold and windy spell we experienced just after Christmas, a lot of damage showed up quickly.
The first tendency in the spring is to cut these brown branches out, but we suggest leaving them for a few weeks as they might not be completely dead and could re-leaf.  Feed them in the spring and again in the early fall.  Stop in to and see us for the best fertilizer. Keep them well watered during any periods of drought.

Animal Damage:

Many kinds of wildlife can cause different types of damage to landscape plants by winter’s end.  Deer are one of the most common “plant destroyers” in their search to find food once their normal supplies are exhausted.  Deer browse anywhere from ground level up to a height of 5’.  They will eat the most tender growth first which usually is the newest growth.  This type of damage causes stunted plants which do not look very appealing and stand out in the landscape as sickly in appearance.
Try to prevent deer browsing before it becomes a problem.  Fencing, netting repellents, and choosing deer resistance plants are all options.  For already damaged plants, feed them and keep them well watered during dry spells.
Voles are another animal that causes a lot of damage in the winter.  Their feeding damage occurs on all parts of the plant that are near or below ground level.  They strip away bark and eat roots under mulch or snow cover.  Once their damage is discovered in the spring it is usually too late to save the plant.


During a winter like this one, with large temperatures swings, heaving of recently installed plant material is bound to happen.  Heaving occurs when a plant is “pushed out” of the soil by the alternating cycles of freezing and thawing.  The root ball is pushed above the soil line exposing the crown, which is then subjected to freezing temperatures causing the plant to die.
This a good time of the year to go check your recent plantings.  Any that are above the soil line should be tamped down back into place.  Perennials that are planted late in the season have a tendency to heave.

Wind Damage:

Wind has been a major part of our weather lately.  Whether it is wind from a storm or every day winter windy conditions, it can damage trees and large shrubs.
Check for broken limbs (especially those that are hanging), twisted branches, and splits or cracks in tree trunks.  Clean up what can be done.  However, some of these conditions may require a consultation with an arborist since they can present dangerous situations.

Leave a Reply