SPOKANE, Wash. — It's only early October and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Spokane.

Snow and other elements of winter have made an uncharacteristically early arrival in Spokane and it has residents wondering where fall went. Just by walking the streets we can see that branches, shrubs, even full trees are crippling under all of the weight added by the October snow following a storm earlier this week. 

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All of the fresh white powder has wreaked havoc on residents' backyards and has left them asking what steps they can take to best go about caring for their backyards with regard to plants, trees, and sprinkler systems with early freezing temperatures. 

KREM 2 spoke with Nursery Manager Nathan Marcusen at Smart Gardens and Geoff Christensen of Auto Rain Contracting to learn about what the people of Spokane can do for their yards, trees and sprinkler systems after the snow.  

Q & A with Nathan Marcusen at Smart Gardens

What's your biggest concern for homeowners with regard to the early snowfall in Spokane?

"Biggest concern would be the uneven breaking of tree branches -- they need to clean up those breaks with clean cuts for disease control, so disease can't enter the open wounds of trees." 

What is a clean cut?

"A clean cut is one that goes down to the branch collar of the affected branch."

Are there things people can do to repair the damage themselves and what is an example of when they should call an expert?

"If it's a small or low hanging branch, definitely get your pruning sheers out and do it yourself, make a clean cut down to the base of the branch. If it's a larger branch or on top of a large tree, you need to call an expert to be safe." 

What can homeowners do so they don't hurt their plants?

"Don't get too excited about pruning right now. Everything is still slowing down and it's not totally dormant (the plants still have their autumn color and leaves are still on branches). Hold off on your winter pruning, you can clear off your ornamental grasses now. I'd hold back pruning any wooding material."

Are there any mistakes you commonly see with homeowners when they are dealing with the effects of the snow?

"A taught mistake would be to get out your sheers right now and start hacking everything to pieces. You should wait to do that until it is fully dormant to avoid initiating further growth. You could stimulate growth at a time you don't want to." 

What are people calling in with questions about the most recently?

"Most of the calls are asking if it's still an appropriate time to plant a tree or a bush or anything like that, and it definitely is time. the trees are relatively unaffected by this weather. It's time to get them settled in for the winter so they can put on strong growth in the spring." 

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Q & A with Geoff Christensen from Auto Rain Contracting

Do you recommend people blow out their sprinklers now or wait to get a thaw and more of the snow to melt?

"It's not so much the snow that affects it, it's really the cold weather, especially for everything above ground. Valves and everything below ground is insulated, the biggest thing with freezes is everything that is above ground. It's going to get warmer but I would shut your water off and get the drains and valves open. Open whatever you can so you can get water moving."

What kind of risks are people taking if they choose to delay or not blow their sprinklers?

"Water can get backed up and seep into the house or the window well. If you aren't home or you can't hear it, you could wake up to a lot of water built up in your basement. It can cause a lot of damage."

Can people blow out their sprinklers by themselves? How does that work?

"They can do it by themselves, it may take a lot longer. The big thing to look out for with that is when their compressors cycle on and off. You can get up to max pressure, but when you use it, it goes back down. Another big thing is to shut the water off inside before it gets really cold. As a homeowner it's really important to know where your irrigation shutoffs are and to open up any drains outside before it freezes." 

What is the process like for making sure sprinklers are turned off when the winter time comes?

"The biggest thing is knowing where your shut-off is. We didn't think it would be 20 degrees in October and we had all our blow outs scheduled through all of October. To prep for winter it's really important to drain water and turn it off before it has a chance to freeze in your pipes. Especially for new homeowners that's the first thing you want to get educated on -- knowing where that shutoff is." 

How has your company reacted to the early arrival of the snow?

"We've put two more guys out in the field with compressors. We pushed off some other projects to accommodate our customers. I'm working until dark to get those customers in before we have any further damage to deal with."

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