Helping Your Garden Recover After a Storm

Helping Your Garden Recover After a Storm

By Michael Jenkins

Recently, communities across the US, Canada, and even parts of Mexico, Cuba, and the Bahamas were struck by an intense storm. Many communities will be recovering for a while to come, and could use a little help if you can spare it. Many gardeners are now faced with helping their gardens recover after the storm—but what should they do first? In this special edition Gardzen blog, we’re going to offer some tips for repairing your garden after the storm and what else you can do to help your community as a whole.

Before you jump in and start work, remember safety first! Take a moment to look around and check for any potential hazards—downed utility lines, gas leaks, broken hanging limbs or toppling trees, or structural damage to houses and other buildings. Those should be addressed first, generally by informing the proper authorities and bringing in expert help. Once that’s done, take a moment and check in on your neighbors to see if they need help with similar issues. Elderly folks and people with disabilities are especially likely to need a hand, so please remember them, too!

Once the safety issues and immediate dangers have been addressed, it’s time to take a look at your plants! Once again, we’ll start by taking a look around and seeing where the damage is—hopefully it won’t be too extensive! While the order of operations for garden recovery after a storm will vary depending on your space and your priorities, generally the first place to start is with uprooted plants, exposed roots, and/or plants that have been knocked out of their containers. Exposed roots cause stress to the plant along with root damage and water/nutrient loss, so taking care of that quickly by covering exposed roots, replanting plants that have lost their containers, and similar reparative actions give the affected plants the best chance of survival.

Lifting and supporting flattened plants is another critical step in ensuring garden recovery after bad weather. Plants and foliage that have been flatted or knocked down by rain, wind, or hail should be gently lifted out of the dirt and given some support while they recovery—and they may need support for the rest of the season. As with repairing exposed roots, this doesn’t guarantee their recovery, but it does give them their best chance to bounce back. Go slow and be gentle—our poor plants have been through a lot!

Pruning damaged limbs and branches will help your trees and shrubs recover from the storm, as well as promoting their overall health. For those of us affected by the recent weather event, the silver lining is that now is a good time of the year to do some pruning. The weather is colder and many plants are dormant, making pruning less stressful for the plant and a bit easier on us too. Be especially careful working around trees and large shrubs after a storm—there may be broken limbs hanging in the canopy that are difficult to see and could cause injury if they fall.

Check and make sure drains and gutters are clear, including the ones on the street in front of your house and any storm drains in the area. We don’t recommend try to clear storm drains yourself; there’s a lot that can go wrong and cause injury. Instead, alert your municipal authorities and let trained professionals deal with it. For drains in your garden or gutters on your house, loose leaves and mulch are the primary troublemakers, so double-check areas that are mulched or near tree cover.

While we’re discussing water, we should all remember to be careful when dealing with standing water. While runoff from your house or yard isn’t likely to be contaminated, water that flows in from other places may carry wastewater, sewage, fertilizer or pesticides, and other undesirable elements with it. Again—we think that the best thing to do is call the authorities when in doubt and follow professional guidance.  Don’t be afraid of standing water—it’s likely fine—but do take a moment to assess the situation and use your best judgment.

Hold off on working soaked soil until things dry out a bit in order to avoid root damage and soil compaction. After the soil dries and drains a bit, it will be easier to work without causing other issues.

We hope this short guide helps you and your garden recover. If you have tips or ideas that might help other gardeners, please let us know and we’ll share them here. Gardzen is all about community, and we’re here to support each other at this difficult time.

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