By JESSICA DAMIANO – Associated Press
While we celebrate blooming roses, ripening tomatoes, and the pollinator frenzy in our backyards, we gardeners should also be aware of the downsides of summer: thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an “above-average 2022 Atlantic hurricane season,” and even as the tornado season draws to a close, some year-round threat remains in parts of the country.
So what should a gardener do? After making sure people, homes, and other structures are safe, our thoughts naturally turn to our beds and borders. We’ve poured our blood, sweat, tears and money into it, so it’s important to protect our investment – and the joy it brings.
Close parasols during storm warnings and store garden furniture indoors if possible. Inspect trees for cracked or broken branches and remove them before they are ripped off and blown away by high winds. If these trees are large, hire a certified arborist to inspect them. the cost is nothing compared to the damage they could cause if they break or fall over.
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In warmer climes, palm trees are well adapted to strong wind conditions, so you don’t need to prune them but can remove coconuts and safely store indoors.
If your soil is wet – either naturally or from recent rains – apply 3 inches of mulch over beds and borders. This provides protection from the soaking effects of a flood that could uproot trees, particularly shallow rooted ones such as white pine, birch, willow and tulip poplar, among others.
Tack any newly planted trees to support them and add hanging baskets and planters to the home, shed or garage. If that’s not possible, place them around the house or in another sheltered spot.
Protect the flowers of small flowering plants by covering them with buckets or bells covered with something heavy like a brick to hold them in place. Wrap larger plants in burlap secured with twine. Orchids, bromeliads, succulents, air plants and other tree-dwelling plants can be attached with fishing line.
Check that all climbing plants are attached to their supports and that the supports are firmly anchored to the ground. If they don’t feel safe, remove the supports and place them – and the plants – on the ground until the threat passes.
Lay row cover fabric over tender, young seedlings and secure with landscape pins.
Once the storm is over, remove fallen fruit and veg that could attract rodents as they rot on the ground, and remove the shelter around the plants.
Inspect trees for damage. If you can safely remove hanging, broken branches while standing on the ground, do so. However, avoid trimming anything higher than your head or climbing a ladder to trim. These jobs are best left to a professional — and that doesn’t mean there’s someone walking in front of the door with a chainsaw who probably doesn’t know what they’re doing and could be a scammer.
The International Society of Arborists maintains a list of certified arborists on their website at https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist; Start your search there.
If a small tree has been fallen or uprooted, straighten and stake it as soon as possible and pack the soil down when replanting. Drive stakes into the ground around the trunk, attach twine, rope, or string to the stakes and secure to the tree. Apply 3 inches of mulch or straw to the soil, keep it 3 to 4 inches from the trunks, and water the tree regularly for the rest of the growing season. This will help restore the root system.
Wind fluctuations help trees develop strong trunks and roots, so don’t stake the tree for more than six months to a year.
Salt spray can dry out or desiccate trees and shrubs near shore, and they may not show symptoms until the following year. Apply mulch around trees to retain soil moisture and water deeply and repeatedly to flush out salts.
Refrain from pruning evergreens or removing dry tops until new growth appears the following spring.
When floodwaters spill over onto your property, salt is likely to form a crust on the soil surface, causing desiccation. Most plants will not survive such devastation, but the soil can be restored: water deeply, then spread plaster of paris over the soil. It reacts with the salt to form sodium sulfate, which is washed through the soil by repeated watering. Keep watering vigorously for the rest of the year.
Jessica Damiano is a regular contributor to The Associated Press about gardening. As a master gardener and educator, she writes The Weekly Dirt newsletter and creates an annual gardening calendar with daily gardening tips. Message her at email@example.com and find her at jessicadamiano.com and on Instagram @JesDamiano.
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