Many Utahns woke up to a different spring view Tuesday — a blanket of snow covering blossoming fruit trees, flowers and other signs of warmth from the past few weeks.
The scene at the Utah Capitol, for instance, was a far cry from Friday’s 70-degree weather. A fresh layer of snow and ice covered the uber-popular cherry blossoms surrounding the building, though that didn’t dissuade some from taking family portraits there. The National Weather Service reports about an inch of snow fell in the area overnight.
“Welcome to spring in Utah. You can have all four seasons in one day, which we’ve kind of had a little bit this year,” said Andy Stevenson, general manager at J&J Garden Center in Layton.
But what does Utah’s sudden cold snap mean for the health of those trees, or your trees at home, especially after an early start to spring weather? It depends on where the tree is in the budding process and how much snow fell, Stevenson explained.
He said snow typically “doesn’t harm too much,” but that depends on two variables.
First, the heaviest damage can occur when the leaves on a tree have already formed beyond a budding stage. That’s because wet, heavy snow can “certainly break branches and stuff off” of a tree, Stevenson said.
The weather service reports there were thousands of power outages overnight, especially in south Salt Lake and northern Utah counties. It’s also where most of the valley snow ended up overnight. About a half-foot of snow fell in the Daybreak area of South Jordan, according to the weather service.
This also happened when a spring storm struck the Wasatch Front valleys in March 2019. Hundreds of trees were ultimately damaged and thousands of residents lost power resulting from the felled limbs. As long as the second wave of this week’s storm doesn’t dump an overwhelming amount of snow, valley trees unharmed overnight should be fine.
The second issue is tied to people who use their fruit trees to grow fruit and not so much as deciduous shade trees. Snow itself may not cause a problem, but there can be a problem when it gets really cold and freezes those blossoms and buds.
“If it freezes that, you can get a really low yield, as far as fruit this coming season,” Stevenson said. “We’ve seen in time’s past. That’s really the downfall of right now — it’s supposed to get really good.”
There really isn’t much that can be done to protect larger trees but small trees can be protected by either a large sheet of plastic or a tarp, especially at the base of the tree, he added. Proper pruning also aids the health of a tree; however, that’s something he advises people to do after the cold weather to avoid unintended damage.
The snow is a good thing overall, even if it can be damaging to some trees. He pointed out that trees and plants are getting “fresh shots” of moisture right as they are coming out of dormancy. It also increases the snowpack that drains into the water Utahns use on their trees and plants all summer.
“Having all this snow and this rain this time of year — honestly, it’s awesome,” Stevenson said.
Contributing: Aimee Cobabe