Gardening Advice: Take it Slowly as you Help your Plants Recover from the Storm

A column by Jane Ford, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

This year we’ve had 80-degree weather in March, which forced our plants into an early spring, then drought conditions moved in to stay, and, on June 29, a storm of epic proportions blew through and dumped debris (dirt, roofing shingles, tree parts and assorted junk, such as children’s toys in my backyard) from someplace faraway.

All of us have stories to tell and have had more days than we care to think about sweltering without fans or air conditioners because the power lines were laying everywhere, all tangled up with downed trees. Many of us have taken refuge with friends or relatives until the power company could do what they do best. This will be an Independence Day week we won’t forget and will all be sharing stories about for many years.

Sadly, in our city, so many trees were torn from their moorings, ripped in two and scattered all over our homes, cars, streets and landscapes. I’ll bet some of our tree parts and other bits and pieces that were picked up by this veracious storm were then dropped off on landscapes east of us as it continued its rampage.

If you have had serious damage to your trees and would like to know if they are salvageable or what you should do, call the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension at 481-6826, and ask for Ricky Kemery, horticulture educator.

In a crisis such as this, professionals who take care of clean up are scheduled to the max so the telephone queue stretches longer and longer and makes it more and more difficult for them to answer distress calls. I know this is difficult, but patience is the key to getting through this thing.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to salvage what can be saved so that when everything is finally cleaned up and put back together, your valuable plants will still be there:

  • Clean up as much of the debris as possible.
  • Be sure to put this in the trash bins or bag it up for trash pickup. Or the city has said residents can pile tree debris by the curb in front of their homes for eventual pickup by city crews.
  • After cleanup, evaluate what plant life needs attention and can be rescued.
  • If you have small trees, shrubs, etc., that have been damaged, carefully prune off the damaged parts. Resist throwing plants away unless they are so severely damaged you know they cannot be saved.
  • If there is a lot of debris that has fallen on smaller plants, attempt to remove it enough so that air and sunlight can get to them.
    Water well during this time so the already-stressed plants will be supported.
  • More importantly than losing a plant or two is to care for you. Be sure to drink a lot of water and take rest breaks while working in the heat. Try performing many of these tasks early in the day or late in the evening.

In this kind of situation, there is no reason to worry if things aren’t cleaned up immediately. Don’t let anyone push you beyond your ability to handle the situation, either financially or physically.

And in the meantime, try not to get angry if things aren’t being done as quickly as you would like. Tree removal and power line crews have been working around-the-clock to take care of the situation and are doing a wonderful job.