When the snow begins falling in your driveway and on your sidewalks, your only thoughts are how to get rid of it. The last thing on your mind is the landscape under the snow. However, where you throw or pile up snow this winter can have a significant impact on the plants hunkering down under that snow, and also on your wallet.
You can make life so much easier for yourself next spring if you plan your snow management strategy now, while your landscape is in full view. You wouldn’t just throw seed or mulch or fertilizer willy-nilly around your land. It costs money so you make sure it reaches your target area. Snow management requires the same thought process. Your objective should be to pile or blow snow to areas of your yard where it won’t damage plants or hardscape.
Each snow removal method requires a different plan. Shoveling, of course, is the most strenuous. Blowing is time consuming. Under pavement heating is expensive. Plowing is costly.
Even if you blow or plow your driveway, you’ll need to shovel snow from steps, porches and other small areas. Many landscapes have foundation plantings close to steps and porches so you have to find a different trajectory to throw the snow to avoid piling it on top of your plants. Maybe the best idea is to shovel it off the steps and porch onto the sidewalk and then blow it out onto the lawn. Or you may be able to push it off the steps with the shovel and then just lift it off the sidewalk onto the lawn.
You should also shovel snow from around the base of trees to deter small rodents from burrowing under the snow and feasting on your trees. I’ve seen mice actually girdle trees, compromising the tree’s vascular system and killing it.
Blowing gives you the most control over where the snow ends up. As you blow, you can turn the chute to avoid plants. If necessary, you can blow the snow straight ahead until you’ve cleared the planted area and the turn the chute to blow that snow onto the lawn. Blowing also lets you scatter the snow so you’re not moving a large amount of it, which you’re concentrating as you push it.
A good plow operator can manipulate snow to some extent, pulling or pushing it clear of plants before pushing it off to the side. A downside of plowing is that the plow can cut off edges of the grass if the operator doesn’t aim correctly, and it can be difficult to aim a plow and truck and keep it on course, especially if your driveway bends or curves.
Even if they aim properly and don’t cut sod from the edges of the driveway, they may cut it during another common move. Plow operators have to pile snow somewhere, so they often push it into the front yard. The snow pile is usually peppered with small pieces of sod from the edge of the driveway. Worse yet, if you have a tree in the front yard, the plow operator may pile snow up against the trunk, which is my greatest fear. It has all the downsides of a mulch volcano plus it’s usually piled only on one side of the trunk exerting pressure on that side of the tree, which can cause lean or even failure.
Blowing allows you to cut nicely defined edges, and you’ll know immediately if you’re off the pavement. Rows formed by blown snow are not as high as piles left by plows and are much lighter and less dense.
With the pros and cons of each removal method, you can decide which method best meets your needs. If you have a plowing service, be sure the operator knows where you want snow piled and places to avoid. If you have a written contract, insert these instructions into the contract.