As cleanup continues from the June 3 storm that produced damaging winds and large hail throughout the area, farmers are keeping a close eye on the potential recovery of their crops.
But lawn, trees, shrubs and gardens need attention as well. John Wilson, UNL Extension educator in Burt County, offers tips on how to care for acreages in the aftermath of severe weather.
Lawn care after a storm
Although it takes significantly large hail and an already wet lawn to create an uneven surface in a lawn or even create divots, what makes for a potentially bigger problem for a lawn is the damage the hail does to trees.
“If the storm came with a lot of wind (like the storm on June 3) damage would be if the hail stripped a lot of leaves off trees and these aren’t removed in a couple days,” Wilson said. “The same would hold true if a lot of branches were broken out of trees and allowed to lay on the lawn rather than being removed. Either of these could potentially smother areas in the lawn, creating a thinner stand of grass.”
Wilson said if either leaves or branches are allowed to remain on a lawn, area of the turf may become chlorotic (yellow) from lack of sunlight, but will return to its normal color once the leaves or branches are removed.
Caring for trees and shrubbery after a storm
Wilson said that most broadleaf trees will not be seriously affected by the loss of leaves and a few small branches. But the loss of many needles on an evergreen can be very serious because they will not grow back in like on a broadleaf tree or shrub.
“However, if a large portion of the woody ornamental (more than 30 percent) is removed, it can create a stress on the plant,” he said.
He also points out that one of the main considerations, especially on trees, is what the loss of branches does structurally to the tree. If most of the damage occurred on one side of the tree, then the tree may be more likely to lean or fall to the side with branches. If that’s the case, some pruning may be needed.
“The biggest problem on trees, and to a lesser extent shrubs, is storm damage rarely makes nice even cuts,” Wilson said. “If a branch has broken off, the homeowner needs to trim off the remaining stub to a major branch or back to the trunk. These cuts need to be just outside the branch collar, the slight flare at the base of a branch where it attaches to a larger branch or the trunk. Don’t leave any kind of stub sticking out past the branch collar.”
Wilson also cautions agains treating a wound on a tree with paint or wound sealant because trees will heal over a natural surface more quickly than they will over a foreign substance. He also said it is natural for the cut or wound to “bleed” sap and will not hurt the tree.
Another form of damage that can occur with wind-driven hail is that the hail comes with enough force to strip the bark from a tree. If this is extensive, it will likely kill or seriously weaken trees to the point where they are hazardous and should be removed.
Shrubs are a little more forgiving when this occurs in that you can prune out, at ground level, the shoots of the shrub. Wilson said that many, but not all, shrubs will grow out new shoots that can fill in where the injured shoot had been.
“Another problem we’re seeing after last Tuesday’s (June 3) storm is trees that actually split and one part blew down, or they split, but both ‘halves’ of the tree are still standing,” Wilson said.” In either case, these trees should be removed because they are structurally unsound and even though they may look fine, this split is a hazard next time we have a strong wind storm.”
He cautions against the practice of running a rod through the whole tree to try to hold it together, or to wrap something around the trunk to hold it together.
“The tree is a hazard and the sooner it can be removed and replaced, the sooner the homeowner will have a nice, new, healthy, structurally sound tree,” Wilson said.
Caring for flower beds following a storm
Flower beds and vegetable gardens damaged by storms may or may not remain productive this year.
Wilson said that most perennials will recover, depending on the extent of the injury. They may not bloom or “look pretty” this year, but perennials were going to die back to the ground after a frost this fall so next year’s growth may be fine … or it may take the perennial a year or two to recover.
“One thing to avoid doing is to remove tattered leaves if they still have some healthy green tissue,” Wilson said. “Even though these leaves may look unsightly, if they have some healthy tissue, that portion of the leaf is still making food for the plant which will help it recover. If that tattered leaf is removed, we’ve just reduced the amount of food that is being produced for the plant’s recovery. If the plants really look stressed, cut off any flower buds when they form. That way the plant is not using its energy to produce a flower and it is all going to the plant’s recovery.
Do not fertilize
One thing that applies to any of these — lawns, trees/shrubs, perennials or even vegetables — is do not fertilize them to help them recover after a storm.
“Fertilizer will trigger top growth, and while that may sound like a good thing, if the plant is stressed, the roots may have a hard time feeding the portion of the plant that remains after the storm,” Wilson said. “Producing more leaves or flowers just stresses the root system that much more and may actually injure, rather than help, the plant in its recovery.”