Salisbury, MD. The December 2010 blizzard is over. We are looking at a range of an inch or two of snow in the northern end of the Peninsula to eight to twelve in the Salisbury area to fifteen or more in the southern end. Today, the sun is out and the temps are creeping into the 40's. The snow is melting on the streets, sidewalks and lawns and falling from the trees and shrubs. We just need to wait it out, right? Wrong!
What we need to do is get out there and survey the situation. Take a half hour and walk around your property. The low growing plants such as kale, chard, hellebores, iris and pansies will be just fine. It's the sturdier plants that need your attention now.
Take a close look at your shrubs and small trees. To prevent further damage, it is important to remove the weight of any remaining snow and ice from tender branches as soon as possible. This should actually be done during or as soon after the snow stops as possible, but two days later is better than not at all.
The Gardening Grannies have a rule of thumb about the quickest and easiest way (always an important factor) to accomplish this. For evergreen shrubs such as boxwoods, camellias and rhododendrons, just take a broom and give them several whacks on the sides of the plant. Hitting them on the top can cause additional damage. This method also works well on the deciduous shrubs such as forsythias.
For single stem plants (think young and/or dwarf trees) or small branches, it is often a better idea to shake them gently by hand. As a practical matter, large and out of reach branches just have to pretty much fare for themselves.
The Gardening Grannies are personally forecasting a milder mid-winter season (January and February) to follow this wild and harsh start. When the milder weather moves in, and as time allows, the Grannies will prune off damaged and broken branches and encourage you to do the same. Since plants are now in full dormancy, this piece-meal pruning won't serve to stimulate growth. It's just a good time to keep up with things and reduce the workload of the spring clean up.
This is also a good time to check out your bird feeders. With the driving snow, birdseed may have gotten wet and will soon mold (or freeze solid) and become undesirable to even the hungriest of birds. Now squirrels, known to eat just about anything, may be another matter. We suggest you take down your feeders and knock loose all the clumped up birdseed. If you don't mind feeding the squirrels, just leave it on the ground. In the case of a cylindrical feeder where the birdseed resists coming out of the bottom, get a long knitting needle and use it to loosen the rest of the spoiled seed. Take a bucket of warm water with a splash of Clorox in it and put the feeder in to soak for an hour or two. Your garage or back deck is a good place for this particular project. After soaking, remove the bird feeder and splash the water on it to remove particles. Provide a final rinse of clean water to remove traces of Clorox and allow to dry overnight before adding fresh seed. The Gardening Grannies, knowing full well that projects like this can be forgotten mid-stream, caution you that allowing the feeders to sit in the water over night in an area where the water might freeze, can well result in a damaged bird feeder. If you must, put a post-it note by the light switch to remind yourself to finish up the project. We all know about that "out of sight, out of mind" thing!
Gardening Grannies, a group of avid and Master Gardeners, live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and we look forward to hearing from you.