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Take A Walk In Your Yard On Mild Winter Days

La Nina is giving you an opportunity that you don’t have every winter. That’s a chance to get out and check on the condition of your landscape during the breaks from snow and bitter cold.

When your landscape is buried under snow and the temperature’s freezing or below, I bet you look out the window and wonder what’s going on under that blanket of white. This year, nature is giving you the opportunity to know what’s going on and to repair anything that needs fixing. Just bundle up and go out for a stroll around the yard. Here’s some of the things to look for:

• Debris that has blown in from the neighborhood. Take a trash bag with you so you can easily scoop it up and dispose of it.

• Leaves matted on the lawn. Even if you cleaned up your fallen leaves, the wind might have brought you some more. Lift the leaves up and put them in your trash bag. Check to see if the grass is all matted and discolored. If it is, you probably have one of the winter fungal diseases. Using a flexible lawn rake, rough up the area. The dry period will be long enough to kill the fungus if you’re lucky.

• Tree branches on the ground. The wind may have deposited some broken branches or they may be from your trees. Clean the branches up then look up into the crowns to see if there are any uneven branch stubs or broken branches still hanging in the tree. Any of these conditions indicate that we should prune the tree(s) this winter. Don’t be macho and attempt this job yourself. Tree pruning is best left to our professional arborists.

• Look for signs of deer browsing activity. Look for deer tracks in the soft ground, deer droppings or chewed ends on tender young branches. You may be able to remove lower branches to let the deer know they’re unwelcome. Or you may want to try one of the spray repellents.

• Check the base of your trees for rodent activity. If mice, rabbits and other rodents have begun chewing on the bark at the base of trunks you hadn’t wrapped in hardware cloth or plastic tree guards, take a trip to your local hardware store or home center to get some wrap. Hardware cloth is steel mesh that lets air get to the trunk but not rodents’ sharp teeth. If you don’t protect the trunk(s), the rodent can chew all the way around. Girdling the trunk will sever the vessels trees use to get water and nutrients from the roots to the crown, and this will kill the tree.

• Check your evergreens for any brown spots. Brown spots will indicate that the leaves or needles are losing water. If you didn’t apply anti-desiccant in the fall, we can do it now to protect the plants from further desiccation. If you did apply anti-desiccant, temperatures may have been mild enough to melt some of the material, indicating that you need a touch-up.

• Check plants for heaving. In the case of perennials and other herbaceous plants, you can right them and then tamp the soil down. Be sure to mulch around each plant or, better yet, mulch the whole bed. Fixing heaving trees is best left to our professional arborists.

Walking your property during a winter thaw is good for you and your plants. You get out in the fresh air and take in some exercise. Your plants will receive maintenance in winter when they need it rather than having to wait until spring. Letting some problems go until spring can require more aggressive, expensive work. Last but not least, you’ll have a good head start on spring clean-up, so you can begin enjoying your landscape earlier this spring.

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