Mending Your Lawn- Post Hurricane
Split and downed trees, flooding, and debris remain after Hurricane Irma. The fortunate among us are simply concerned with mending our home landscapes. Now, with a weather forecast that looks good for recovery efforts, here is a compilation of things to know and actions to take to help restore your yard.
Duration of flooding affects the severity of plant damage and chances for survival for turf and garden plants. Some sections of a yard may be under longer than others. Many landscape plants, especially native trees and shrubs, can survive being submerged for about a week. Other plants, like azaleas, that don't like wet feet will not endure that length of time.
After waters recede a landscape, they may be covered with organic debris and worse, thick silt.
Many deciduous landscape plants will defoliate after flooding. Branches that have lost leaves are not necessarily dead- don't be quick to remove them.
A sewage-like odor in the soil results from lack of oxygen. Water covering the soil reduces oxygen to plants' roots. It displaces the normal air in the soil. The sediment that is deposited further decreases oxygen to roots. These factors work together to smother tree and plant roots. Break up and remove flood sediment by hosing it off with fresh water and raking.
Wash the silt off evergreen plants with hose spray. One tablespoon of dish-washing soap per gallon of water in a sprayer tank is an excellent way to clean silt off plant leaves. If silt is extra thick, add a teaspoon of dishwasher rinsing agent to your spray tank. Then, be sure to rinse with a spray of clean water.
Waterlogged roots are susceptible to root rot organisms. Be aware that root rot and root collar diseases can result in a tree's slow decline and death. Young trees are more vulnerable than mature trees.
Prune off any dangerous and dangling branches from trees and shrubs. Call a landscaper for help with large branches and those that overhang your house and driveway.
Watch trees and shrubs carefully for an outbreak of insect pests. Plants have already been under stress from flood waters, so they will be less able to endure the stress from insect attacks. Don't delay treatment. Be sure to read and follow label instruction on your fungicide container.
Like trees and shrubs, turf grass declines from silt cover and lack of light and oxygen. Water contaminated with oil or pesticides can also damage turf. Clean off flood residue with hose spray as soon as possible. Apply fungicide to limit and prevent disease on turf grass. Follow label instruction on your fungicide container.
Lawns that have been flooded will benefit from aeration in the spring. If lawn recovery is spotty, aerate and fill with plugs. Lawns that has been covered with one-inch or more of silt or submerged longer than 4-6 days may need complete reestablishment.
Give the soil a chance to dry out before planting. Walking on wet soil and working wet soil causes compaction.
Do not fertilize- plants have been stressed. Do not stimulate them to put out new growth, especially in the fall.
Top dress your garden with compost to help revitalize the depleted soil.
Where soil has been badly eroded, replace it with topsoil. Cover exposed roots.
Flooding affects the distribution and incidence of weeds. Many weeds float and therefore travel long distances on storm water. Weeds from these seeds will spout now, next year, and beyond. Monitor your lawn and garden for weeds and remove them early. Keep up your preemergent applications. Put down fresh mulch in your garden areas.
It is not unusual in floods for fire ants to link together to form a raft and float to dry spots where they establish new colonies. Watch for fire ant activity in your yard and treat the problem.
Inspect and flush your sprinkler system. Some emitters may be clogged and need to be replaced. Check drip systems to make sure they are not blocked.
Be aware that the residue from flood water can change the pH of your soil. Have your soil analyzed. Follow the recommendations given in the report in preparation for spring growth.