What to do this week
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening” on 970WFLA
Repairing your landscape, after the Storm
Every resident in Central Florida has been affected by the storm in a different way. Although I could never dismiss the real horror some of us have gone through this past week, for this article, I will only deal with the wind damage as it relates to our landscape plants and how I can help you mitigate the damages it has caused. All plants require wind and water to grow healthy stems and roots. Unfortunately, too much wind can cause our plants to bend or break, just as too much water can cut off oxygen to our plant’s roots and cause them to decay. We have had both of these issues in the short span of one week. Now that the storm has passed our state, the recovery process can begin.
The first step in helping our landscape is to stop any further damage from occurring. Trees and shrubs that have broken, bent, or hanging limbs should be removed. The larger the limb or the branch is, the more care you will need to take in removing them. Shrubs and trees with a diameter of four inches or less that are leaning over can be straightened out and tied down to support stakes embedded into the ground. Trees over four inches in diameter and those which hold sentimental value can be saved through the efforts of a certified arborist. Unfortunately, most arborists are in the process of helping people remove large debris from their homes, so your efforts to hire one of these contractors may take a while.
Even though you may have luck in righting a tree, you will have to remember that the root structure of the tree or shrub has now been compromised. When the tree or shrub bent over, the roots on the far side of the tree were broken and stretched. Standing the plant back up will do the same to the roots on the other side of the tree. Plants that have been repositioned stand a fifty-fifty chance of surviving long-term. Even if the tree or shrub looks healthy, their root systems will take years to re-establish themselves. Even then, an afternoon storm could produce just enough wind to topple the plant again. This is the main reason I do not like to reposition any tree that has a trunk diameter over four inches. Shrubs are much more likely to recover quicker and more naturally.
Plants with large leaves may have been shredded during the high winds. These plants tend to break easily, and many shed their leaves during the storm. Do not worry. These plants will put on new growth and replenish their leaves in a short period of time. Plumerias and Umbrella trees are an example of brittle plants with large leaves. Prior to a storm hitting, plants like these can be stripped of their sizeable leaves giving the tree extra wind resistance. This is also the technique used in trimming palms, which bears the name Hurricane pruning. If you can lessen the winds drag on your trees and plants, then you increase their survivability.
Some areas of Tampa Bay had several inches of leaf litter covering their lawns and bed areas after the storm. Much of this debris came from the oak trees we have in this area. Along with the debris came insects, which were dislodged from their homes during the storm. You will need to rake this debris from your lawns or risk losing large areas of turf due to fungal diseases and rot. Most of us have a mowing company that can do this for us, but some of us do not. Be careful when bagging this material as you could be stung by these insects. Spraying your lawn and bed areas with Bifenthrin should help you control some of these insects.
Florida is a wonderful place to live. We do however, have to put up with the occasional storm that passes our area. Preparing for the storm by removing leaves from plants susceptible to breakage and properly trimming your trees and landscape plants, can help save them from disaster. Cleaning up after the storm quickly can lessen the chances of losing your plants and be on the lookout for insects as you clean up your landscape and spray as needed. Good luck and remember, without plants, we would not be here!