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Hurricanes
Take steps to save trees on your property
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Take steps to save trees on your property

Take steps to save trees on your property
A large ficus tree fell on Nancy Dillard's Sewell's Point home during Hurricane Frances in 2004. (David Spencer/The Post)

Take steps to save trees on your property

You may be able to save smaller trees of less than 10-inch diameter that are down or partially blown over.

Cover their roots (but not with plastic) and keep the tiny root hairs wet until they can be uprighted. Don’t cut roots still in the ground.

With shade gone, plant tissues heat up in the afternoon, causing sunburn. A cooling spray of water in the late afternoon will help cool them down. Stake trees securely.

Give your tree some ‘sunscreen.’ Its leaves are like clothes. Without them, trees begin to suffer from sun scald (an arboreal version of sunburn).

Pile brush, soil, a tarp or sphagnum moss on trunk and major limbs. For small trees, try splitting a length of plastic pipe lengthwise and sliding it onto the trunk.

Securing the tree

Set the tree in soil at the same level it was before the storm. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Fill it with water.

Pull up the tree using a cloth sling or the backs of several friends. (Don’t use wires, chains or cables that may snap, injuring bystanders.)

Tamp in soil around roots while spraying with full pressure of garden hose to eliminate air pockets. Back fill with soil from the site. Keep watering until all bubbles cease.

Stake trees securely.

Pruning and fertilizing

Concentrate on salvageable trees. It’s a waste of effort to try to save large trees with split trunks or broken main limbs.

Prune downed trees heavily to compensate for root damage and reduce a tree’s weight to stand it up. Remove damaged or dangling limbs, using the “three-cut method” for big limbs. Don’t “hatrack” trees. Not only is it illegal, but it eventually creates top-heavy trees that will go down more easily in the next storm. Always try to prune back to an area of the tree where a smaller, lateral limb has sprouted.

Leave broken and dangling palm fronds, if possible. If trimming is necessary, cut them in half and see if the palm recovers. 

This also will reduce the tree’s need for water and nutrients while recovering. Remember, even brown and broken fronds are still providing food for the tree. It may take six months for new growth to emerge, and up to two years before palms have a full canopy again. Without sufficient rainfall, recovering palms will need to be watered three times a week for six weeks.

With other trees, trim the canopy back by one-half to two-thirds to reduce water loss. Always trim back to healthy tissue, using sharp, clean implements.

Don’t use pruning or wound paint. Treating a tree’s wound with copper fungicide, however, may help prevent fungus.

After a month, fertilize lightly, making sure the mix has potassium and magnesium. Spray palm buds with fungicide to prevent bud rot.

Fallen branches

Do not be quick to remove fallen branches or palm fronds, which provide shade while plants acclimate to a suddenly sunny garden.

Fallen leaves should be removed as fast as possible. They quickly form a rotting mat that blocks light from plants and grass beneath, and encourages the growth of fungus.

Keep in mind that it could be weeks before downed limbs and other vegetation is picked up.

Remember, no matter how bad the storm, almost everything grows back.

— Barbara Marshall

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