You’ve survived the storm, but your lush, beautiful garden needs help.
Don’t despair. You may be able to salvage your storm-damaged trees and plants.
Here are some steps to take:
▪ Downed trees can be out of the ground for weeks and still live after being righted. The key is cutting away any roots and enlarging the growing hole so that the root systems will fit back into a sufficiently large space. Roots may have to be pruned so the tree can be raised upright.
Until you can work on the tree, cover the exposed roots (use an old blanket, but not plastic, which can cook the roots in sun) and keep the root mass moist. This will prevent sunburn and help the trees survive until you have the time to replant them.
Dig out soil beneath the exposed roots. Right the tree and stake it. Use pieces of old hose to cushion the wires where they wrap around the tree, and keep stakes in place for at least six months.
▪ Examine trees for injuries. If more than half of the canopy is gone or heavily damaged, it may be wise to remove the rest of the tree, as any regrowth will be weakly attached. Look for cracks in the trunk and major limbs, which indicate danger down the road.
▪ Trees and shrubs stripped of leaves will bud out again. You don’t want to rush to cut them down just because they’re leafless.
▪ For large broken branches, prune them back to a V-crotch, where the branch forks, provided it is sound and has bark intact. If you must take a major branch back to the trunk, remember to save the branch collar, which is the raised area from which the branch emerges. It is this area that contains tissue that can form a callus to cover the wound.
▪ Use a chain saw or pruning saw to clean up jagged ends, cutting at an angle so water runs off. Don’t use pruning paint, as you’ll seal fungi inside.
▪ Whitewash newly exposed bark to prevent a fatal dose of sunburn. Use whitewash or thinned white latex paint (not an oil-based paint) on areas exposed for the first time.
▪ Prune the root system to get it back in the ground. Remove an equal amount of canopy so the tree doesn’t struggle to keep its leaves hydrated while trying to produce new roots.
▪ Treat the reset tree as a newly planted one, watering every day for two to four weeks, depending on rain. Reduce watering gradually, but keep the root zone moist for several months.
▪ When new growth appears, use a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength either as a spray or a drench. A light application of potassium nitrate may be helpful. Wait until spring to use granular fertilizer, then fertilize lightly.
▪ Be patient and attentive to fruit trees after a storm. They may take two years before bearing fruit. Fertilizer promotes new leaves, especially important for fruit trees.
▪ If a storm surge drenched your yard with salt water, thoroughly drench your plants with fresh water. Salt can kill many plants.
▪ Rake up leaves and debris or anything that can smother grass.
▪ Water-sensitive plants: Some plants, such as European fan palms and avocado trees, have roots that do not like sitting in water. Use a drench of Banrot, Aliette or Subdue fungicides to ward off root rot; drench valuable palms.
▪ Palms may be left standing, but under heavy winds they will be badly shaken. This bruises the single growing point and any bud that might emerge.
To keep the bud from rotting, prepare a mix of a copper-based fungicide and pour in into the growing point. Remove any bromeliads around the palms first as they are sensitive to copper.
▪ Leave green palm fronds on the tree, even broken ones, unless the dangling fronds pose a danger. Green fronds nourish the tree.
▪ Proper pruning may help bare shrubs recover. Trim close to the connecting branch, but do not cut flush or leave too a big of a stub. Anyone hired to prune needs a valid trimmer license from the county.
The Miami-Dade and Broward County extension offices can answer many of your questions:
Miami-Dade Extension Office: Visit http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/ or call 305-248-3311
Broward County Extension Office: Visit http://www.broward.org/Parks/Extension/Pages/Default.aspx or call 954-357-5270