Storm assessment

In the Garden

Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University master gardener


Sunday’s fierce winds resulted in plant damage throughout Indiana. Trees were damaged and destroyed, and other plants also suffered various forms of damage. While nature will eventually heal her wounds, there are some steps that will hasten the healing.

The first step is to assess the damage. If you have trees that suffered broken limbs, it may be advisable to consult a certified arborist, especially if the damage is high in the tree. If the damage is lower or on a small tree, the home owner may be able to do the work himself. It is likely that the breaks are jagged, and the first step is to make a clean cut. The cut should be made back to the point that the broken limb branches from a larger limb or the trunk. The cut should be made just above the collar, the swollen area at the base of the branch. There is no need to paint any type of sealant on the wound. The tree will form its own protective covering in time.

Shrubs may be treated in much the same way as trees. However, some flowering shrubs will actually do better if the broken stems are cut to the ground. Although this may leave an empty space in the shrub, it is best to wait until just after the shrub flowers next year to re-shape the shrub.

There is little that can be done for damaged annual herbaceous plants, except remove them and perhaps fill the space with some mums, asters or pansies. However, in the case of herbaceous perennials, it may be best to just prop up the plant the best you can. Even if it does not look its best, as long as the plant remains green, it is storing up energy for future years.

Another form of landscape damage comes not from the wind, but from the sun. If you lost some trees or large shrubs, plants that were growing in the shade may now be in partial or even full sun. Since fall is a good time for planting and transplanting, it may be best to transplant the shade lovers to other spots in the garden where they will be in the shade. The new sunny space may be filled with some sun-lovers that were unable to be grown in the space before. This may present the opportunity to try something new. Of course, if one prefers to keep the shade-loving plants there, it may be a good excuse to build a pergola or some other structure to provide the needed shade. Either way, there will be something new to enjoy.

Although most of us saw some form of damage from the storm, we should be thankful that there was no loss of life in Orange County. Let us pray for those who suffered greater loss, and strive to help those who need a hand at this time.



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