Winter Landscape Care

House and yard covered in snow.

Follow these simple steps to keep your landscape healthy this winter.

Protect your Landscape

  • Avoid walking on your lawn it if it is dormant or frozen.
    • Frozen grass blades have ice crystals between the leaf cells to protect the cells from damage. If you walk on frozen grass, the pressure pushes the ice crystals into the cells within the leaf and causes them to pierce the cell walls. Walking on frozen grass shouldn't kill it, but in spring the damaged areas may turn brown.
    • Foot traffic and landscape equipment on a dormant lawn will crush the dry, delicate crowns, possibly damaging or killing the grass.
  • Uncover plants weighted down with heavy snow. Gently brush off branches to prevent breakage. If frozen, let snow melt naturally.
  • Protect multi-stemmed evergreens, such as arborvitae, junipers, and yews, from winter storm damage by tying trunks together with old nylons or cotton twine.

Keep Salt Away from Plants and Lawn

  • The greenest alternative is simply keeping your walkway clear and shoveling as quickly as you can.
  • Scatter sand, kitty litter, or birdseed for traction.

Winter Pruning

  • The best time to prune deciduous plants is just prior to new growth when plants are dormant. It’s also easier to see the shape when their foliage is gone.
  • Prune on a mild, dry day.
  • Limit pruning to 30% or less in one growing season, and avoid shearing branches that can lead to poor structure and pest problems.
  • Clean from the inside out, removing waterspouts, suckers, dead, or crossing branches.
  • Water sprouts occur along branches, usually at pruning sites. Suckers grow from the trunk or roots.
  • Prune out one of a pair of crossing or rubbing branches. This eliminates rubbing that creates an open wound that can attract insects.
  • When pruning dead or diseased branches, make cuts into healthy wood, well below the affected area, above a healthy bud, back to an adjoining branch or flush with the branch bark collar.
  • Disinfect tools between each cut with products such as "Lysol," "Listerine," or rubbing alcohol.

For more pruning information: A Guide to Successful Pruning, by Virginia Tech