Recent snowfall has reminded me that it is still winter. The past few weeks had been more comfortable in terms of temperature, but winter brought its cold, snowy face back to greet us.

Heavy snow can cause our trees and shrubs to bend down out of their normal form. Even though it looks damaging to the trees when the branches bend with the weight of snow, it is best to leave it to melt naturally rather than knock it off the plant. Once the snow and ice melts off plants, they will spring back up to their normal form. You can lightly brush snow off of the tree with a broom, if desired, or just let it melt naturally.

If the tree becomes covered with ice, the instinct is to knock it off the tree, but this can be more damaging than leaving it. If you try to break ice off of a tree or shrub, it can break or crack branches, leaving more problems. As with snow, the ice will melt off the plant and it will be fine.

If, at some time during the winter, too much snow or ice breaks tree branches, these should be cleaned up. The best management practice for trees with broken branches due to snow and ice would be to go out and make a clean cut when conditions become safe again, just as you would following a thunderstorm in the summer. Neither time is the best time to prune a tree or shrub, but it is better to clean up the cut when it happens.

If the tree gets damaged in a snowstorm, you may need to contact a certified arborist to help. Also, there may be a time when the damage is too bad, and you may have to think about replacement trees. According to Oregon State University Extension service, the things to think about on whether or not to remove a tree include, how healthy was the tree prior to damage? Are the major limbs broken? Has the tree lost its leader or main upward growing branch? Did the tree lose more than 50 percent of its crown or branches and leaves? How big are the wounds? Are there remaining branches that can form new structure? Is the tree in the most suitable location? If it seems the tree already had damage or growing problems, it lost too much of its canopy or very large branches, or it isn’t growing in the best location, then maybe it’s time to move on to a different tree.

Deicers are also a concern in the winter. They can cause damage to concrete sidewalks and plants growing nearby. Many de-icing agents contain salt substances. Because of the salt content found in these products, it can cause severe damage to our plants if too much is piled on them too often. Typical plant symptoms of salt damage are desiccation (drying out), stunting, dieback, and leaf margin and tip damage that looks as though the leaves were burned by a chemical.

To avoid damage to the concrete, remove the salt as soon as you can. When removing the snow, do it in a manner that protects landscape plants growing in the yard. Do not pile the snow onto trees, shrubs, or flower gardens. If it has to be piled onto your landscape, move the salt onto the grass in a uniform manner on the grass surface. If too much salt continually gets piled up on the grass in one location, the turf can be harmed.

If you have any questions, please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture or follow her on Twitter @Nikki_Stoner.