According to Jeff Foxworthy’s performance last week, “If you know all four seasons — almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction — you live in Utah.”
Another joke pundit added, “If your tulips get snowed on three times after they come up and twice more after they bloom, you live in Utah.”
The post-winter storm Monday lived up to our reputation. It vied for first place against last winter’s storms. It swiped with windy passes at trees, shrubs, shingles and more. What started as rain ended as snow and frost. If you have come to expect such behavior as part of a tumultuous, normal April, you’re from Utah.
Intermittent spring weather during the past few weeks put some gardeners off guard. The end of expected frost seems so close and we did enjoy an early spring in recent years. Plants are coming out of dormancy, leading us to think it is time to plant. Many gardeners planted cool hardy plants like peas, lettuce, broccoli and more. Cool hardy planting wasn’t a fool hardy gesture — such plants will manage through such cold snaps.
Some spring bulbs came and went already. Crocuses have no sense at all. They come before the snow even melts and the pansies have the nerve to bloom beneath the snow. The daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, pansies and other spring flowers and bulbs aren’t quite so eager to face the storms but they are nevertheless always fool hardy enough to show up during this kind of weather. A little ice on their leaves and petals won’t set them back too far.
Yesterday’s forecast for very high winds and bad weather was a bit patchy. Some areas of the valley, particularly those near the canyons, were colder and snowier than others. The cold snap did leave ice on shrubs, trees and windows, but by and large it wasn’t as cold as expected. In Tooele Valley, the winds that were expected to gust at 60 to 80 miles per hour saved the worst of their bluster for elsewhere.
Whether or not the cold weather has damaged swelling fruit tree buds is relative to how cold it got in areas around fruit trees and how far along the trees were in the blossoming cycle. Blossoms that are not yet fully open can withstand colder temperatures than those that are.
There is more to the frost damage equation than the lines on the thermometer. Each plant has limits on how much cold they will tolerate and they vary from plant to plant. If the weather dips below 28 degrees while most fruit trees are in bloom, the crop will be decimated but the tree won’t be hurt. If the temperature dropped to 20 to 30 below zero during the winter months some marginally hardy plants will be killed outright while hardier ones will not.
What has happened is a matter of wait-and-see.
Roses are another focus of winter kill. Most years the tops of the plants die back, leaving a foot or two of green cane to send out new shoots in the spring. The prolonged cold of winter killed some back to the base and others are green only up a few inches. Like all plants, some roses are hardier than others. Those that were pruned may have begun to send out new shoots that may or may not be damaged by frosty weather.
Wind may have damaged trees and shrubs that were already weak, and some repair pruning may be in order. Last winter’s storms may also have decimated them. To their advantage, most trees haven’t yet put out their leaves which catch the wind.
If your trees or shrubs were damaged this week or any time, cut off broken branches back to a large side branch or to where they originate if possible. Do not attempt to cut large branches high in shade trees. The danger of climbing a tall ladder or into a tree with a chainsaw is very real and the savings in dollars is not an even trade for serious injury or death. The tree needs to be cut properly to maintain its health by someone who can do it safely.
Hire a professional arborist to take care of such damage. Find a certified arborist — one who has met the criteria set forth by the International Society of Arboriculture. You can find the names of Utah arborists on the Utah Community Forest Council website at http://www.utahurbanforest.org under the link “Arborists for Hire.”
The cold and wind we had this week have done what they have done and little can be done to change it. It is time to take a wait-and-see attitude and prepare to deal with the after effects as they are needed.