March weather can be unpredictable, but spring is on its way. Friday, March 20th marks the spring (vernal) equinox. The equinox has long been celebrated as the time of rebirth. The robins are returning and the plants are waking up from their winter slumber.
It’s time to get out and start looking at our landscapes. You may notice your broad leafed evergreen shrubs and trees may have some browned leaves and branch dieback. This is what’s called winter burn or winter injury. Plants such as hollies, rhododendrons, laurels and boxwoods may be affected. Winter burn is caused from the inability of the plant to draw moisture up from the frozen soil. Most evergreens continue to transpire, even during the winter months. The plant will lose moisture through its leaves and not be able to recover that moisture from its roots. You may notice more browning leaves on the side of the plant facing the sun or unprotected windy exposures. Browning leaves may also be a sign of salt damage. Using salt on sidewalks or driveways may end up in planting beds and lawn areas.
Other types of winter injury are broken branches from snow load, frost cracking, and animal foraging. Most plants will recover from minor winter injury with no intervention; however some may need a little extra help. Pruning out any dead or damaged branches, spring fertilization and proper irrigation will ensure recovery over the growing season. Some trees or shrubs may be damaged by animals feeding that could be fatal. Mice will eat away at the bark of some trees at ground level, causing girdling. The plant will not be able to move water and nutrients up and down the trunk causing death. Unfortunately, those plants will need to be replaced.
Roses will benefit from pruning and fertilizing now also. Most roses should be pruned now, with the exception of a few varieties that should be pruned after flowering. Pruning out weak or damaged canes and thinning to just the strongest canes will improve vigor and flowering.
Spring is a great time to fertilize all your planting beds. Trees, shrubs and perennials will all be pushing new growth soon. Applying fertilizer now will ensure that the proper nutrients are available to your plants as they begin to leaf out and flower. We recommend a good quality organic fertilizer that will not only provide necessary nutrients, but will help maintain a healthy soil profile.