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How to Deal With Ice on Tree Limbs and Bushes


You can mostly ignore ice buildup on tree limbs and bushes; however, it can be something to be wary of during the winter months and may affect some things around your home or garden.

Glaze ice, that coating of ice that occurs in freezing rain, can make mincemeat out of your tree’s branches and flatten bushes. You can’t stop it from coating your vegetation, but you can ensure it hasn’t caused hazardous conditions. First, be sure no branches are touching a power line because, if they are, someone could be electrocuted if the branches are touching a wire—or appear that they could—report that to your power company immediately. If you see a downed wire or sparks, call 911 immediately.

Carefully inspect your ice-covered tree. Do not go under the tree for any reason, as an overburdened branch could fall without warning. And, avoid your inclination to toss rock salt on the tree or base of the tree. Rock salt is an effective way to kill trees and destroy stumps!

When assessing your tree’s damage, look for potentially dangerous broken limbs that should be moved immediately, such as those that may block a driveway or sidewalk if they fall. Carefully prune them out, if possible. If you don’t see any, let the tree fend for itself. You can inflict more damage by trying to chop away ice or takedown branches unnecessarily. (Healthy branches will bend under the weight of the ice, but they may not break.) Don’t try to shake the tree to loosen ice or snow. It won’t work, and, again, you’re risking additional damage.

Heavy snow covering on your evergreens may flatten branches out on the ground. While you can gently remove any snow so the branches pop back up into place, it’s rarely necessary. Again, you could damage the branches, especially if you use a rake or other metal tool. You can use a broom if you wish, but why? Even shrubs that appear like pancakes after a heavy snow or ice storm will generally bounce back once the covering has melted. In the spring, prune away severely damaged limbs and growth.

Don’t ignore this, though: If icy, snow-covered branches are now resting on your roof, they are probably best removed (preferably, you would have inspected for this possibility before the winter weather sets in and prune away those branches at that time, but, we know, you’re busy). The weight from the snow can damage your roof structure, branches can scratch and loosen shingles or block gutters, and melting snow can cause leaks. Sorry to tell you this, but branches on your roof are best left to the professionals.

Posted on January 11, 2021

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