How subfreezing temperatures affect your landscaping

spruce twigs covered with frost close up clez4z2Although most of us had more severe issues to contend with during the deep freeze last month, the toll it took on our landscaping is just now coming to light. The green plants you had at the start of February are now most likely brown and looking lifeless.

These subfreezing temperatures are a recipe for disaster for both our plants and uninsulated sprinkler systems.

How freeze damage to irrigation systems occurs

Soil is an insulator for underground irrigation systems and can help protect them from freezing temperatures. The depth of the pipes affects the amount of “insulation” and, therefore, the risk. The more shallow, the more probable expanding ice will cause issues.

While soil is an excellent insulator, the valves and the PVC piping delivering the water are typically above ground, making them vulnerable to leaks after a freezing event. Water expands when it freezes, and although the piping may be flexible enough to accommodate the expansion, the soil constricts the amount of expansion possible. Glued joints, backflow devices, and more are at risk, and if expansion is too much, something has to give.

Cracks can form, and if they occur, repairs will be needed before running the system. All too often, significant water loss and erosion result from broken sprinkler pipes.

Above ground leaks are painfully obvious since water will “gush” out of the pipe like a geyser. Underground leaks are a bit more complicated. If the irrigation system is pressurized when the leak occurs, you will see a large wet area in the soil near the leak. If the line is not pressurized and the sprinklers are not actively running, it will only be evident when the system is turned on. At that point, the amount of spray will be lower or even totally, and only have a wet area that will form over time.

Please let us know if you need any help assessing the irrigation.

Assessing plant damage

Just like a bear after hibernation, we may venture out of our homes and offices to inspect our landscapes and find there is much consternation. Brown is the new color. Turfgrasses are crisp and brown. Perennials and tropical plants are burnt or are globs of mush. Tree leaves are burnt or have a hazy green tint and dropping leaves.

Plant material will take some time to know the impact of this weather event truly. Many shrubs, perennials, and ornamental trees will suffer and even perish, but that process will take time to diagnose. Some things may look dead now that will recover, and there are perhaps things that look ok now that ultimately won’t be. Meanwhile, we and mother nature both ask for your patience. Let nature take its course and let us know of your concerns.

We’ve written another article this month about this topic that we encourage you to read. Of course, for any concerns, please let us know.


Value • Integrity • Service • Quality


EarthWorks © 2022. All rights reserved • Designed & Developed by