Q: My triple-trunked birch tree completely bent over from the recent wet, heavy snow. I shook the snow from the leaves and limbs at the time, but it did not snap back. I planted the tree four years ago and it has really thrived. I’m heartbroken that the storm may have destroyed it. Is there a way I can stake the tree for the winter? — Gwen Stark, Fargo.
A: Immediately following the wet, heavy snow, I drove around Fargo and saw a large number of trees bent, both young and old. Some trees snapped; others just bent over. You did the right thing in lightening the snow load at the time.
The snowfall was especially damaging because most trees were still in full leaf. In contrast, when heavy, wet snows come in spring, trees are usually bare, and snow has less surface area on which to cling, so damage is less severe, except to evergreens. If your tree trunks have not snapped or cracked, they likely will be OK. For now, leave them alone for a while, now that the snow has melted and the weight lessened. Wait and see how the tree responds naturally during the next several weeks, seeing if the trunks will flex back into position on their own. Forcing them upright too soon could cause more problems.
If the trunks don’t return to a vertical position by themselves, in early November gently secure them to stakes for the winter to provide support. Don’t force them back into their original position all at once. Instead, coax them back into position gradually over time, a little this fall, and more next spring.
Q: Can I put down grass seed at this time of the year, or isn’t that a good idea? — Jeanne K., Fargo.
A: The preferred window for grass seeding is Sept. 1 to 15. If seeded then, grass seed will germinate, grow and establish well before winter. An alternative is to wait and "dormant seed" after the soil has cooled down to a point at which the seed will not sprout this fall, but instead will be in place, ready to germinate and grow first thing next spring. Early November is usually a safe date to dormant seed.
It’s risky to seed between about Sept. 15 and Oct. 31 because the soil is usually warm enough for the grass seed to germinate, but there’s not enough time for the tiny grass seedlings to develop enough to survive before winter sets in. Instead of seeding during those weeks, delay until after Nov. 1 for a dormant seeding.
Q: When should we cover our roses for the winter? — Jean Siirila, Wadena, Minn.
A: Only rose types considered "tender," meaning not winter-hardy, require covering with leaves, straw or similar protection for winter survival. "Hardy" shrub roses don't require covering, but can be given protection if you prefer. Covering roses should be delayed until the soil surface has frozen. Usually early November is about right, depending on the year.
Covering too early, while rose leaves are still green and when the soil is still warm, can lead to rotting of the rose canes and crown. Several killing frosts with temperatures well into the 20s will help "harden off" the roses in preparation for winter, and then the rose bushes can be covered in early November to protect them from the bitter, injurious cold that comes in December, January and February.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.