Hurricane Ian was no joke, and we are as devastated as all our Southwest Florida neighbors are about the damage that was done in our Lee and Collier County areas. As many of you may have noticed, our trees and gardens have been decimated and destroyed in these counties. We have gotten reinforcements in terms of trucks and chainsaws and are doing our best to help whoever needs some help with downed trees etc.
First, we must tell you that it is an extremely dangerous project to clean up after a hurricane, and many of those jobs should be left to professionals like those of us at Peer Landscaping. But we know you want to get started with the smaller jobs, so just make sure you have the right safety gear and tools to prevent any injuries. It’s important that you leave certain jobs to us though, and here’s a prime example, only use a chainsaw when you are on the ground. Get our professionals to come and do all the work that requires using a chainsaw after climbing a tree, using ladders, or ropes. Here are some of the other hurricane clean up jobs you should leave to us.
- Let us remove any leaning trees or broken limbs that are on or near your home or other potential target like a car, boat or RV.
- Let us do the climbing. So, if there are limbs you can’t reach without being on a ladder or climbing the tree, leave that to us.
- We can determine if a tree can be saved, so even if you think it looks like it’s beyond repair, let us look at it first before you rip it out by the roots and discard it.
- We know it currently looks like your trees were pruned by Mother Nature but let us come in and look at your trees and bushes and prune them properly to promote healing and good structure.
- If it’s heavy, let it be. You should avoid lifting heavy tree limbs on your own, as it can cause injury. We have the proper equipment to handle removing heavy objects, so leave that to us.
- Do not work on anything in the garden that is near downed power lines or lying on a power line. Assume all power lines are dangerous and stay away from them. In the case of a tree lying on a power line, call the power company.
Having said all of this about what you should not take care of on your own, we also want to give you some specific steps you can take to preserve parts of your landscaping on your own property, until our professionals can get to you.
Steps to Take if Your Area Flooded
For many areas of Lee and Collier County the flooding from Hurricane Ian affected homes, cars, boats and yards. Flooding poses some particular problems when trying to clean up after a hurricane. Flood waters hide all kinds of submerged dangers, and once they recede, they leave behind debris, garbage, silt, mud and general nastiness. You will want to clear all of that and clean everything as well as possible in your yard. Part of the problem with the flooding is the fact that much of it has salt water which is corrosive to anything metal or wood and is also detrimental to living plants of all kinds. Here are some of the ways you should handle the post flooding clean-up of your landscape.
- Take photos of the damage before you clean anything up. These photos are necessary for insurance purposes.
- If your area is flooded, wait until the water recedes before doing anything. There are too many dangerous things that could be submerged or floating in the water. One thing you can do during this time is to clear any debris away from downspouts or drainage paths to help the water recede.
- Once the water recedes rake the mulch away from plants to help excess water evaporate.
- If you had flooding, once the water recedes your lawn may have a lot of debris, mud and silt on it. Do your best to rake this debris away so it doesn’t smother your grass.
- Hurricane Ian’s winds were up to 140 miles an hour in Cape Coral, and the rain it carried was sucked up from the Gulf, so it was salty. Unfortunately, ocean water can damage plants in several ways, and we’ve already seen much of that damage. Trees and bushes look like they’ve been burned, and in a way, they were. The plants in our area got wind burn and on top of that salt burn at the same time. Salt displaces the nutrients plants need and pull moisture out of the roots causing desiccation. For plants that have been exposed to salt water, you should irrigate them with fresh water as soon as possible, spraying off the foliage and applying water to the roots. Water more frequently than normal.
Taking Care of Your Trees
- If you can’t replant them right away, do your best to protect the roots of small trees that have been uprooted. Cover the exposed roots with soil, moist burlap sacks or moss. Remove branches that are dangling.
- Replant small trees and shrubs as soon as possible. Remove damaged sections of root making a clean cut. Dig the hole large enough to fit the roots back in. Hold the tree upright and fill in the hole with the soil you removed. Stake the tree and adjust it regularly, removing the stake once the tree is stable. Water the tree well and continue watering three times a week for several weeks.
- Doublecheck the roots of trees and shrubs even if they did not get uprooted. Due to the fact that the wind rocked them back and forth, there may be hollow depressions around their roots. To eliminate those air pockets, add some soil and water.
- Do some light pruning, Trees that have broken branches less than four inches in diameter have a good chance of recovering. Pruning ragged breaks reduces entry points for disease and insects. If bark is stripped, chisel it to form neat edges. Your final cut should be made just outside the collar (that slightly swollen part where the trunk meets the limb). This cut allows the tree to heal itself properly. Don’t prune live branches, as that may put stress on the tree. Our professionals will be able to tell you if it can recover.
- We’ve seen a lot of damaged palm trees of all varieties out there. However, palm trees have adapted to hurricane level winds and are able to survive even if many of the leaves have been stripped from the plant. As long as the heart of your palm has not been damaged, palm trees can often be straightened or replanted. For tall palms, we urge you to let us come take a look at it and prune what needs pruning and replant what needs replanting. We will remove dead brown fronds and fronds that cover the bud, while leaving any green or partially green fronds as important energy reserves for the palm. Don’t pull off any fronds that are not brown.
Cleaning Up and Caring for the Rest of Your Garden
- If you had a lot of leaves blown off your trees and shrubs, be sure to rake and remove those soggy leaf clumps that are near to your plants or in the gullies between your lawn and the city abatement at the street level. Warmer weather means these wet leaves can harbor slugs, which are detrimental to your plants. In fact, keep an eye on slug and snail populations which tend to flourish in the aftermath of a storm.
- Prune perennial plants back to undamaged stems. Do not sweat your annuals though as they probably won’t survive. Once the ground is dry, and you have cleared away debris you can replant annuals, fertilize them, and water them well.
- If you had any flooding be sure to wash away any nastiness from the flood that may have been left on the leaves. Silt and mud may have salt in it, and in general, the leaves of your plants need to be able to breath.
- You may want to test your soil as rain and flooding can leach away nutrients, particularly in the sandy soil we have in Southwest Florida. Test for acidity and alkalinity, and then make corrections by putting down some compost or fertilizer. We are in a time period when fertilizing is allowed in our area.
- If you had a vegetable garden and there are veggies to harvest, do so, but be sure to wash it very well and mist it with hydrogen peroxide to kill harmful pathogens that may have been carried in the flood waters.
- Finish your cleanup by replacing soil, compost, and mulch in your flower beds and around plantings, establish a fertilization program, and water regularly.