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February 26, 2013

Snow-laden trees and shrubs branches stressed by storm

In most cases, best advice is to let trees be.

Branches bending under the weight of mounting snow this morning are probably best left alone.

Any attempts to knock snow or ice off of overhead branches often increases the risk that branches will break, said Dennis Patton, a horticultural agent with Johnson County Extension.

“You get branches moving and bouncing and that puts more stress and usually does more damage,” Patton said.

And if there is ice on the branches, broken shards also create a hazard for the tree shaker below, he said.

If branches do break, the broken branch should be trimmed back to the next fork in the tree. Broken stubs should not be left because they may rot, and the decay could spread into the next branch if it is left untrimmed, Patton said.

As for shrubbery, if evergreen branches at ground level are being split apart by heavy snow, it might help the shrub recover more quickly if snow is gently broomed or brushed off the branches, Patton said. But shrubs usually will bend and not break, and they usually will recover most of their shape.

The more common winter hazard for greenery comes from damage from ice-melting materials, Patton said. It’s best to leave a foot of buffer on the edge of the driveway or walk when applying any chemicals, he said. And avoid shoveling ice-melting materials into grass or shrubbery.

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