Bitter is the only way to describe this week’s record-breaking weather beginning with Valentine’s Day. We are not the only ones feeling the temperature, so do plants — trees and shrubs in particular.

Despite their image of being dead during the winter, they are alive and growing, even if the growth is imperceptible to our eyes. Without protection from the temperature and wind, they can easily dry out. Protection comes from snow, which acts as a blanket keeping warmth in, and ice that seals in moisture.

That is the good news. The not so good news is that too much snow can and does weigh down branches. The safest way to remove snow from flexible twigs and limbs is to bounce off the snow. Place a broom under the branches and repeatably lift to remove the snow. A leaf blower is also effective in removing dry snow from plants and walkways. A coating of ice keeps moisture in. A layer of one-fourth inches of ice will protect plants. Florida orange growers routinely spray water on trees before a deep freeze to protect buds and branches.

A half-inch layer of ice is heavy enough to break small branches. Do not try to remove ice-covered branches, as it will break them. Other than weight, on a sunny day the ice will act as a magnifying glass burning buds and branches.

Flexible plants will survive. A small tree that is bent can be supported by a plank to relieve some of the weight. It will eventually right itself as the ice melts. In the act of bending, roots may have been torn and air pockets created. Press down the soil around the trunk and add two stakes to stabilize it.

At last check, salt melt products were sold out by Monday. Products to lower the melting point of ice and snow vary as to effectiveness, damage to concrete, and plant damage. As ice and snow melt, the runoff can kill plants. The least damaging product is cheap kitty litter lightly broadcast. For more on ice melt products, visit online EBP Supply Solutions (

Have a mat by the door, as it will track in as snow melts. Whatever product used, apply before ice and/or snow fall.

When cleaning walks and drives, wear multiple layers of clothing. The first layer should be a wicking shirt, as it pulls moisture away from the body; cotton absorbs and holds moisture next to the skin. Take frequent breaks, push the snow shovel and clear it by tilting it to one side. Do not let snow accumulate more than 2 inches.


Garden — Wrap large containers in burlap or bubble wrap higher that the container rim and fill with mulch or leaves. Sow indoors slow growing ageratum, coleus, salvia and verbena. Also, African daisy, aster, cockscomb and marigold, and nicotiana.

Houseplants — Move plants a foot from windows or place cardboard between foliage and windows at night. Move plants that are in bloom into bright light and check moisture weekly. The best measure of soil moisture is your finger. Insert it 1 inch into the soil. If the soil is dry at that depth, water from the bottom and let drain.

Lawn — Avoid walking on the grass. Lightly scatter ice melt or kitty litter prior to snow or ice to prevent plant kill.

Vegetables — Through the end of the month sow indoors beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onions, peppers and spinach. Also, peas, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetable.

VIRTUAL EVENTSThursday, Feb. 25: “Early Spring Gardens,” Lyon County Home Horticulture Series, 6-7 p.m., Zoom or Facebook Live. Information: 270-388-2341.

March 11: “Windowsill Garden,” Lyon County Home Horticulture Series, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Zoom or Facebook Live. Information: 270-388-2341.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist, at

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