Shake snow from branches to prevent long-term damage, say UW Extension educators

UW Extension horticulture specialist Karen Panter in Laramie visits with Fremont County Master Gardeners via Zoom during today’s snowstorm hitting the state.

Prevent long-term damage to trees from sticky spring storms by shaking branches and dislodging the heavy snow, said a University of Wyoming Extension horticulture educator.

Many trees have already begun or are leafed out.

“All of the weight from late spring snows is usually heavy and tears branches from trees, there is so much surface area from the leaves to hold the snow,” said Donna Hoffman, based in Casper.

The storm this morning was dumping large amounts of heavy, wet snow in many areas of the state, with southern and eastern Wyoming receiving the initial brunt of the storm today. More is expected through Friday.

Hoffman recommended shaking branches or the trunks of young trees with a long broom, being careful not to scrape the bark.

Tears to bark when limbs break from the trunk leave long-time scars.
“The vascular tissue is right below the bark, and if the vascular tissue is removed, parts of the tree are unable to get water or nutrients,” said Hoffman. “Tears to bark affect trees for a long time.”

There is probably not much that can be done for larger, older trees with more structure, she said.

Trees in parts of Wyoming received extensive damage from storms in 2013, particularly Casper. For those facing broken branches, proper tree pruning is needed. Hoffman said UW Extension offices have information describing how to care for damaged trees.

Karen Panter, UW Extension horticulture specialist, was knocking snow from trees and shrubs in Laramie this morning and clearing a path for her dogs.
“People shouldn’t forget pets in this mess either,” she said.

Extension horticulture specialist Chris Hilgert said the cold might kill fruit tree blossoms and prevent any fruit production this year.

He did see a silver lining in the snow clouds.

“These wet snows bring beneficial moisture for our landscape plants and gardens,” he said.

The warm spring had prompted some to plant gardens.

“This is a good reminder gardeners should wait until after the average last spring freeze in their area before planting,” he said. “For much of Wyoming, it’s a good idea to wait until June before planting outdoor containers and gardens.”

How to assess tree damage and courses of action is available from UW Extension at bit.ly/wyotreedamage. More tree care and other related information is at bit.ly/wyotreeresources. A UW Extension video describing how to care for storm-damaged trees is at bit.ly/wyoafterstormcare. Other related UW Extension videos are at bit.ly/wyotreepruning.