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Syracuse, New York
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Question of the Week

Snowplows and Lawns

Snowplow damage is an annual event along the edges of many Central New York lawns. Q. After years of shoveling snow, we hired a snowplow service for the first time this year. What a mistake - winter's barely begun and the edges of our beautiful lawn are already a mess! Should we try to collect and somehow protect the strips of sod that the plow has dug up and fill in the trenches from the plow's wheels now, or just wait until spring?

A. Unfortunately, there's really not much you can do for the damaged parts of your lawn until spring arrives. Once ripped from the ground, cold temperatures quickly kill exposed strips of sod. And, trying to fill in tire ruts now - even if you could find good quality topsoil - is likely a losing battle until the plow season is over.

Plants that can tolerate annual damage from snowplows may be better option than replanting grass every spring? Meanwhile, here are a couple of suggestions for what you can do through the remainder of this winter to protect rest of your lawn.

First, meet with the owner of your snowplow service. Take a walk along your driveway and point out the areas of concern. Also discuss strategies for reducing damage through the remainder of the winter.

One question to ask/answer is whether it's really necessary to clearing every square inch of pavement every time it snows, or might it be possible to use part of a two car-width driveway for snow storage, for example? Also, just because the stakes set by the plow service are right at the edge of the driveway, is it really necessary to plow right up to them?

A second option could be to "sacrifice" the most severely damaged part of your lawn. Since you're going to need to regrade and reseed it next spring anyway, maybe you could designate that area for snow storage through the remainder of the winter?

Looking to the future, many snowplow services factor in spring lawn repair as part of their service. If yours doesn't, then it'll be time to find a new company next year.

Liriope, foreground, daylilies, middle, and pink-flowering rugosa roses, background, all recover quickly from snowplow damage and make for an excellent alternative to grass along streets and driveways.You may also want to consider eliminating parts of your lawn that are most likely to be damaged by snowplows? Instead, fill these spots with a combination of snowplow and salt "tolerant" bulbs, groundcovers, perennials and shrubs - such as liriope (foreground), yellow-flowering `Happy Return' daylilies (middle), and pink-flower ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’ rugosa rose (background) in the picture above.

Because the growing points of perennials and bulbs are at or below the soil surface they're pretty much out of harm's way from snowplows. Meanwhile, many shrubs have the ability to send up new shoots from their crowns and/or roots. Therefore, they can be cut back practically to the ground in the spring to remove damaged branches, then left on their own to send up new shoots that will bear flowers by June or July!