Gardening: Repair storm damage to encourage new growth
MOST gardens along the east coast took a severe battering last weekend. Now it's time to take stock, continue the clean-up and apply a bit of horticultural first aid.
Large and tender leaves have been torn by those wild winds. Removing the damaged leaves will not only make the garden look better but will also minimise the risk of infection entering the damaged tissue. Plants like gingers and heliconias can have these damaged stems removed at the base. If there are flowers on the stems, you could enjoy them in a vase inside.
Prune shrubs to remove the worst of the damage. Make nice, clean cuts on an angle so water runs off. Palms and tree ferns need to be trimmed carefully - if you remove the top, which is the growing point, then the whole plant will die. Remove as many of the damaged leaves and fronds as you can. Grassy plants can be cut back to the ground if necessary. They will quickly produce lovely fresh, new leaves.
In the vegetable garden, it's probably best to just replace plants that are severely damaged, rather than try to resuscitate them. Young, healthy seedlings grow quickly and are more disease resistant. Harvest what you can and plant some more.
Trees may have lost some of their foliage and even some limbs. If branches have been broken, remove the break by making a fresh, clean cut below it, into sound wood. Check trees for branches that may have broken but not yet fallen. Remember that unhealthy, weak trees are hazardous, potentially causing injury and damage. If you are in doubt, consult an arborist - trimming or even complete removal may be required.
Once the trimming and tidying is complete, apply a seaweed tonic to the entire garden. This will help strengthen plants and encourage new growth. You can repeat the seaweed every two weeks. You can leave all that leaf litter as mulch, although this might not quite fit the look if your garden is in a formal style.
Be aware that damaged foliage makes plants more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infection, which will weaken the already stressed plants even further. The seaweed will help to prevent this but it still may happen. Watch out for unusual markings or soggy patches on the leaves. Remove dead or diseased foliage and dispose of it.
If you are concerned about the health of your plants, take some samples of the damaged leaves in a sealed plastic bag to your local independent garden centre and seek advice from a horticulturist.
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