Storm Damage and After-care

The recent storm in the mid-Atlantic affected landscapes differently, but here are some tips from the lawn and garden experts in UD Cooperative Extension that you can take to repair your landscape.

Leaves – Most of the leaves remaining on trees prior to the storm are now down on the ground.  Leaves should be removed from lawn areas so turf can continue to receive sun and grow.  Rake, blow, mow or use a leaf vacuum to remove leaves and place them in the compost pile, a nearby landscape bed or the vegetable garden.  Leaves are a great source of nutrients and organic matter.  They are a resource you don’t want to leave your property.

Branches – Branches that have fallen can be picked up, used for firewood or chipped.  If a branch fell off a tree and left a ragged edge to the remaining limb, try to cut that limb off following the principles of natural target pruning—cut outside the branch collar (swollen area at the base of the branch) so you don’t injure trunk tissue.  Do not wrap or paint over cut areas, they will heal better if exposed to air. If the limb is too large or too high for you to handle, hire an insured tree company to clean up the damage.

Fallen Trees – If you have a chain saw, you can start sawing up fallen trees, once they have dried out.  But, in many cases it is better to hire an insured arborist (see below) to deal with fallen trees.

Damaged plants – Try to return shrubs bent over by winds to an upright position and secure them if soil remains saturated. Plants that were damaged due to limbs falling on them can be reshaped with some judicious pruning.  Any limb that is partially broken should be completely removed with a fresh cut outside the branch collar.  Do not wrap or paint over cut areas, they will heal better if exposed to air. Check out our pruning and maintenance page on the Lawn and Garden area of the website.

Water – Roots may be damaged by standing water and saturated soils, making them more susceptible to root rot fungi.  Keep in mind that it may take a while for soil to dry, and for new root development to occur.  Do not fertilize during this recovery period. Excess water puddling throughout your landscape will drain away eventually.  Just hope for a few sunny days!

Gardeners in the beach areas that may experience salt water intrusion on existing lawns should irrigate with fresh water to move the salt through the soil profile down below the root zone of the plants affected.  Good drainage is important for this to work.   If you are worried that the salt levels are too high for good plant growth, a soil test from UD’s Soil Testing Program can be done to determine soluble salt levels.

Our experts do not offer site visits to assess storm damage.  We do encourage homeowners to contact a local, certified, insured arborist.  We recommend looking on the  International Society of Arboriculture website or visit the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association’s website for a list of landscapers.  You might want to also want to check with the Delaware Forest Service for additional tree resources.

For general gardening or landscaping questions that might be answered over the phone, call one of our county garden helplines.