The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

The aftermath of snow and frost

Branches weighed down by snow Branches weighed down by snow

Damage to trees and plants caused by snow and frost are part of nature's merry dance.

It's pretty much always been that way, and although some years will thankfully be milder than others, the recent winter weather has been pretty harsh – especially for young trees, hedging and shrubs.

Frost damage to young leaves, shoots, buds and roots

Any part of a plant that hasn't had time to become hardy may have suffered from freeze and thaw. This will be most evident on last year's growth on evergreen plants.

Any plots that catch the early morning sun will invariably suffer more, as the plants are not allowed to thaw slowly. Fast thaws cause the most damage to delicate plant cells.

If you spot any frost damage, as long as it's not showing signs of disease, be happy to leave it alone until it's growing again in the warmer temperatures of spring. You can then simply give it a quick trim.

Frost lift causing uneven ground and unstable plants

Frost lift usually affects those trees and shrubs that have most recently been put in the ground.

Any pockets left in the soil after planting (however careful you are, they do happen) fill with moisture and expand when frozen. This expansion pushes everything upwards, soil and roots, then thaws again, leaving more pockets of loose earth and making plants unstable.

Once the ground has warmed and frosts have clear, firm everything back down by pressing on the soil around the plants with the ball of your foot. It shouldn't need your full weight, and certainly no stamping!

Damage caused by the weight of snow and ice

Snow and ice are remarkably heavy, and branches designed to catch plenty of sunlight in summer can catch a surprising amount of snow and ice in winter.

Delicate deciduous branches can suffer from breakages and bending – once the cold snap has passed, these branches should be carefully and neatly pruned back. If the damage is to a larger branch, the pruning should be done in at least two steps, this diagram shows the idea.

Evergreen trees and hedges can suffer even more, with their flat surfaces encouraging snow to pile up, bending them down and sideways.

What to do next time

Go round in the morning after heavy snow and use a broomstick to gently remove most of the from branches. Also pay attention to ground plants that might be suffering too, such as lavender.

If you have the opportunity to plan ahead of frosty weather, shelter newly planted trees and shrubs with fleece to protect new growth and help insulate the ground.

Do remember, though, that a light coating of snow can be a good insulator, which eases the thaw process and offers a bit of extra protection against icy winds or morning sunshine that might desiccate evergreen leaves.

Be ready!

2 thoughts on “The aftermath of snow and frost”

  • Marie

    I find these emails very informative and helpful. I'm quite knowledgeable, but you remind me of things, I've forgotten. I will pass these emails to my sister, as I know they will help her too. Many thanks and Happy Christmas

  • Edward Millard

    The second paragraph in the section headed "Damage caused by the weight of snow and ice", refers to " this diagram".

    Where is it?

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