Snow in May!!!  What do I do?

Note: this article was written after sudden and unexpected snow storm in the Colorado Springs area May 21st, 2019.  We brought it out of archive because this information can be used after any late or unexpected cold weather.

Well I wasn’t proactive for snow in mid-May and I am sure there are many in the Colorado Springs area like that as well.   So the big question . . . . WHAT DO I DO NOW????

Don’t panic

This isn’t the first late-May snow storm in history, and let’s face it won’t be the last.  Though it may be the first for most if not all of your plants (trees, shrubs and perennials alike).  So that being said, expect your outdoor plants to go through some stress.  This can be mitigated (keep reading), but everything is going through the stress that even we are feeling about this storm.

Shake some trees

If you are concerned about tree limbs breaking, go out and give them a shake.  PLEASE, PLEASE be careful while you do this, the weight of the snow can be incredible.  A tree branch is not worth you getting hurt!  The weight of the snow, especially on the smaller, ornamental trees can easily snap branches that were more prepared for blooming and leafing out than for the burdens of heavy snow.

DO NOT uncover your perennials. 

Hearing the weather forecast there is more cold weather to come.  Even if there wasn’t this snow is giving your sprouting perennials a nice layer of insulation the help them withstand the current weather.  Also as the snow melts it is providing some great moisture to our plants.  (Remember . . . 4” of snow = 1” of rain; so in the case of the Colorado storm on May 20th, 2019 that is 2” of rain!!!)

Oh no my irrigation system!!! 

If you are like most people in Colorado and start turning on your irrigation system after Mother’s Day (a whole 2 weekends ago, wow!), than you, like me are worried about what could be lurking underground.  Take a deep breathe . . . do not turn on your system, let the cold weather pass.  If you are not sure when it is set to run, check it and make sure it is not set to run for a couple days.  You don’t want to put any extra pressure on the system.  Plus, as I mentioned above, most areas in the Colorado Springs area just got an equivalent to 2” of rain or more!  Your plants and grass will be okay the rest of the week plus some.

Now that we have been through the immediate concerns, let’s talk about the next week or two what you should be doing.

If you do have limbs that have broken or trees that have been damaged call your favorite arborist. 

That being said, if the leaves or buds are knocked off that is not a time to call an arborist.  As I said above, your plants are going to go through some unavoidable stress, there is not much you can do about that and there is no need to spend money on having a professional come out to tell you there is nothing (s)he can do.  Arborists I would recommend, if you do not use the below suggestions, make sure the company you call has an arborist in order to ensure the best care of your trees:

  • Classic Tree Service 719-400-5317
  • Mountain High Tree Care 719-444-8800
  • Anderson Tree and Stump Removal 719-964-5301

Time to pick up debris. 

You will have dead leaves and buds from the cold, there is no avoiding it.  But if you take off the dead leaves and frost-bite buds your perennials and shrubs will have the best chance of greening up again.  Why?  Now your shrubs and perennials can concentrate their energy and nutrients to the new growth and not the old, unhealthy growth.  Why not just take out the perennials and replace them?  They will come back, just give them a little time and a little love.  The exception would be if in 2 weeks you don’t see them greening up again, it might be time to replace them.

Can I “encourage” them a little more? 

YES!  A nitrogen based fertilizer will help your stressed plants by giving them a little boost.  It is like giving me coffee in the morning, I just need a little boost most mornings (okay every morning).  Is there a particular fertilizer?  When it comes down to a liquid based fertilizer versus a granular, not really.  Why would you choose a liquid fertilizer over a granular?  Have you ever noticed that a shot of liquid cough medicine works quicker than taking a pill?  Plants just like us have an easier time absorbing and using a liquid boost versus a pill that they have to dissolve or wait for water to dissolve.  IF you have more questions about a specific fertilizer, check out your local plant nursery.

Lord, help me to accept the things I can not change. 

Now for the harsh reality, there are some things that can not be changed and that you, WE, will have to accept.

  1. The storm happened.   We can’t go back and change that.  Our plants are going to be stressed for a couple days.  There will be some die-back.  BUT by taking the advice above (and it is only advice and may not work for everyone and every plant), and your plants should recover so you can continue enjoying them.
  2. There is going to be clean-up needed.  Like every storm, whether predicted or not, there is a level of debris that will need to be dealt with.   Make the best of it and take advantage of the resources available.
  3. Oh no it has been 2 weeks and my perennial(s)/shrub(s) just aren’t bouncing back!  Look at the bright side, there are a lot of new and beautiful options in the nurseries this year.  Maybe it is time to freshen up with some new color.  Be cautious though, the great nurseries in the Springs area went through the same storm you did.  I know most, if not all, were diligent and got plants covered and cared for, but do not be surprised if they show a little stress as well.

An unknown in any unexpected weather event is insurance and how are the damages going to be paid for.  Will my insurance cover the damages?  If it was to your house, yes, call immediately!  The worst they can say is no (but chances are they won’t).  But what if my outside living spaces were damaged but not my house itself?  Check with your insurance agent, the worst they can say is no.  

If your insurance will not cover damages to your landscape, try the DIY items listed above (picking up debris, fertilizing, etc), most of these items can be done at a minimal cost.  And if you got hit, chances are your neighbors did as well.  Talk to your neighbors, it may be worth everyone going together for a clean-up party (make it more fun with a community BBQ) or see if everyone can pitch in for a mulching service or dumpster service to come for a day or two. 

You can also talk to your county/city tree department, they may have a community mulching event in the planning process.  By mulching those broken branches and limbs you can create your own ground cover for a minimal cost (if there are multiple families involved).