Should You Shake Snow Off Trees?

When you peer outside after a heavy snowfall, chances are you’ll see accumulation not just on your lawn but also on trees throughout your lawn. For many homeowners, the initial thought is to shake the snow off the trees — with the idea being that its removal will relieve tree branches of pressure and stress. But in reality, this tactic can actually cause more harm than good.

Why You Shouldn’t Shake Snow Off Trees

When trees are covered with thick amounts of snow, it inevitably takes a bit of force to shake the snow free from the branches. The force that it takes to do so can cause stress to a tree in a time when it’s most susceptible to damage, as branches can become brittle amid cold temperatures. In some cases, the branch can become so brittle that shaking causes it to snap off — or even worse, the sudden release of the snow’s weight can create a snapback effect that might injure the tree’s entire circulatory system. And much like the human circulatory system, damage there can have irreversible effects.

A Better Alternative: Use a Broom to Remove Snow

Gently sweeping a broom over a snow-covered tree branch offers a gentler approach to tree snow removal that avoids unnecessary stress. Just be sure to use the soft side of the broom versus the broom handle or other heavy tools, as the force of heavier objects can damage tree bark.

The one caveat to this approach occurs when the snow is frozen. In this case, it’s best to wait until temperatures drop and the snow melts. Otherwise, you’ll have to apply even more pressure to shake the snow and ice free, and in doing so, are likely to cause further injury to your trees.

Utilize Pruning as a Proactive Measure

While Southeast Michigan homeowners will always have to deal with snow-covered trees in the winter, proper pruning makes a huge difference in how your trees respond to these conditions. When weak and diseased branches are removed from trees before the winter season, the trees become more structurally sound as their root systems grow stronger and more extensive. The healthier trees are, the better they’ll handle the weight and stress of heavy snow accumulation.

From a timing standpoint, tree pruning is an activity best suited for late fall or early spring. Both on the cusp of when trees enter their dormant season, these two time frames offer greater visibility of the tree structure to make proper cuts while also minimizing the stress that is placed on the tree while cuts are made. Learn more about the importance of tree pruning timing, as well as other pruning tips here.