What To Do With Trees & Shrubs After Suffering Wind Damage

Having just arrived back in Bermuda last evening after a week in Germany, I was shocked to see the damage to our lovely sub-tropical island caused by the storm last week.

Arriving at 6:00 p.m. on a beautiful October evening, there was still enough daylight to see the damage from the air; most damage being at the eastern end of the island. At first sight, it appears as if there were brush fires but we know the damage was caused by salt spray mixed with wind. I have predicted this would occur for some time now because we have had several years of rapid growth with no serious storms. Anyhow, the storm has come and gone and I missed it.

Here is what you need to do now. If your trees have been uprooted, there is still a chance of saving them providing there has not been much damage, and that there are still existing roots actively growing and well anchored. I would recommend removing much of the canopy of the tree while it is on the ground. This will remove much of the foliage which will assist in reducing shock. What we want to do is encourage new root growth. In the case of palm trees, remove much of the base and any damaged fronds. Always remove any flowering spikes, as you want the palm putting its energy towards root production not reproduction. Once this has been done, prop up the tree with the help of others, or a piece of equipment/truck. It should then be properly braced off until new roots (anchorage) have been formed. Watering will assist at this stage. Washing/spraying foliage will also help to remove any salt residue.

In the case of many of your hedges such as hibiscus, match-me-if-you-can, Murraya exotica (mock orange) that would have been burned severely, especially where the east wind can get at it, itâs best to give them a hard pruning using a pair of hard pruners, light chainsaw, or commercial gas-powered hedge trimmer. DO NOT USE A MACHETE!! When performing the pruning, bater the hedge so that it is slightly wider at the base than at the top. This will allow for proper light penetration. Remove any broken or damaged branches as they will cause various diseases to set in.

It is so important to execute a clean cut. DO NOT HACK THE SHRUB. The wind has already done a good job of this. Wind, in actual fact, is nature's way of pruning in much the same way as fires in the plains of Africa bring fresh, new grass for the grazing animals.

You will also clearly notice around the island - in particular with casaurinas - that where trees have been properly pruned, there is little damage, but for trees that have been left unattended, their branches have snapped like matchsticks.

Okay, now you have a bunch of debris in your yard. Now's a great time to set aside a space for a compost area. I'd like to see more people do this versus constantly taking debris to Pembroke Marsh. Another idea, especially if you have larger branches, is to rent a chipper and use the clippings as mulch in your beds, or put them in that new compost pile.

Well, hurricane season ends in November, and hopefully the big blow last week is the worst of the season. Come next summer, you will not even notice a thing. Nature has a way of healing itself, and with some professional assistance, it will happen that much quicker and better.

TIPS FOR SHEARING SHRUBS AND HEDGES

• Keep your shears well oiled.

• A sharp blade is a must, whether you're using hand pruners, hedge shears, or power shears. A dull blade tears at leaves and branches resulting in unsightly die back, browning, and open wounds that invite disease.

• Whenever possible, prune hedges so that they are wider at the bottom than at the top - this will ensure that the lower areas receive ample sunlight for dense growth.

• For a less formal look, use hand pruners to selectively cut back individual stems rather than using hedge shears.

• Sheared plants are not for everyone. Before turning all of your plants into gumdrops, pompoms, and poodles, be sure that they fit into your overall garden plan. Many of Bermuda's sub-tropical plants look much nicer taking on natural forms. In these cases, they are allowed to flower and brighten up your garden.

If any of you have any other more detailed questions, please feel free to call me in the office at 238-1797 or arrange to have a professional consultation on site.

Jefferson C. Sousa

PRESIDENT
Sousa's Landscape Management Co. Ltd.




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