We have not had that big snowstorm or that terrible ice storm yet, but there are some rules you need to remember if those storms arrive and cover our trees and shrubs. Heavy snow and ice storms cause damage by bending and breaking branches from the weight of the snow or ice. Multiple leader, upright evergreens, such as arborvitae and juniper, and multiple leader or clump trees, such as birch, are most subject to snow and ice damage.
When a snowstorm hits conifers
When snow accumulates on the branches of conifer trees, the branches can be bent fairly far down from the weight of the snow. If you want to remove the snow, do not brush the snow in a downward motion. If you brush snow downward, you may break the branch. Always brush upward from underneath the branch to remove snow safely.
When an ice storm hits a tree
If you experience an ice storm that coats the branches of your conifer or leafless deciduous tree, do not do anything to remove the ice. You will do more damage than good. Leave the ice and let it melt naturally as the weather warms up.
Protect the bark of young trees
To protect the bark of younger trees from such hazards as sunburn, boring insects and injury from small animals that chew the bark, it’s a good idea to wrap the trunks with protective material such as natural burlap or a commercial tree wrap, which comes in a number of materials. Wrapped snugly from the ground up to the first major branches, the tree wrap expands along with the growth of the tree, and is said to discourage sapsuckers and other woodpeckers from drilling into the trunks. Again, the important rule here is to remove any tree wrap every spring even if the product package says it can stay for two to three years. It is possible that tree wraps left on during the growing season can injure trees by stopping photosynthesis and gas exchange through the bark surface and by giving bugs and fungi a place to breed.
While tree wrap will usually protect the bark from chewing rodents, some folks expecting rodent problems use a cylinder of ¼ -inch mesh hardware cloth around the trunk. The cylinder extends 2 to 3 inches below the ground line for mice and 18 to 24 inches above the anticipated snow line for rabbit protection. Hardware cloth can be left on year-round, but it must be larger than the trunk to allow for growth. For small trees, plastic tree guards are also effective. You can protect shrub beds from rabbits by fencing the beds with chicken wire; however, check such fenced areas frequently to ensure a rabbit has not gained entrance and is trapped inside.