Archive for Sunday, May 12, 2002

Assess storm damage before doing most cleanup

May 12, 2002


One of the most discouraging aspects of living in the Great Plains is the sudden, violent storms. With strong winds, hail and flash flooding, landscape plants are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

But there are both good and bad sides of the recent spring storms.

On the good side, they have brought badly needed rain along with milder temperatures. But the bad news is that they have dropped hail and produced strong winds that have damaged many plants.

So, if you are still cleaning up from the recent rash of stormy weather, here are some tips to help get your landscape back in order.

The best advice is to not make sudden decisions too soon after a storm has passed. With the exception of removing broken or fallen tree limbs and branches, most other decisions should be delayed for a few days pending further assessment of the severity of the damage.

Plants with established roots and plants that are in an active stage of growth can make a remarkable recovery in just a few days especially with the mild conditions and available water. A light fertilization may be in order, but for the most part doing as little as possible is probably best.

It also is usually not a good idea to do a lot of pruning until you determine what will regrow and what will not (other than those emergency pruning situations that must be taken care of). In a few days you might be amazed how rapidly and completely things recover.

Fortunately, standing water is not as much of a problem now as it is later in the season when plants are fully developed and temperatures are higher. Water that recedes in a day or so will usually cause no permanent damage.

Finally, be conscious of long-term damage. Sometimes problems from high winds or damaging hail do not show up for several weeks to months. Strong winds can break limbs internally or cause the roots of the plant to pull from the ground. This sort of damage may not appear until after the soil dries and the temperature heats up.

To help minimize the effects, visually inspect the plant at the ground level. If the soil looks loose or the trunk or stem has moved or is tilting, it is possible your plant has suffered root damage. Water well and lightly tamp the soil down to try to encourage the roots to regenerate.

Hail damage, on the other hand, will show up as lesions or spots on the stems, twigs or leaves. Plants can send out new leaves rapidly, but badly damaged stems may cause more serious plant injury and eventually require replacement of the plant. Nevertheless, it is important to keep the plants healthy and as vigorous as possible.

Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

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