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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2007

Help your yard survive the flood

I am always humbled by the weather: High winds, tornadoes, and floods. These are things you think of in the spring, but they can also pop up as temperatures shift in the fall. You just don't think of August as the beginning of fall.

I stood in flood waters in the small town of Carey, Ohio, last week and watched the water rise up past my knees within an hour. Just standing on a street corner in Findlay, with water eight feet high downtown, makes one feel helpless.

And the week was capped off with a tornado and high winds that whipped across southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio. Gerry and Patty Mazur live in Point Place in Toledo. They say their neighbor's tree was pushed over during Friday's storm. Lightning struck a tree up here in Onsted, Mich.

The entire trunk imploded, and fire crews sprayed it down so it didn't start a fire in the house nearby. What a week.

First thing, make a note of any flood or tornado damage in your garden journal. These events could result in problems in your landscape next year. Mother Nature is resilient, and plants around your yard will survive. Many of them have made it through floods before, and they will make it again. But you should watch out for signs of flood stress.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Forestry Department, a tree shows flood stress through its leaves. Look for yellowing, early leaf drop, small leaf size, crown die-back, and even stunted growth on young trees.

If it gets really dry, you might even see trees turning color already. Get ready for heavy seeding next year. The USDA says it is typical for flood- stressed trees to produce lots of seeds the next several years as a natural survival technique.

Insects and fungus will also be attracted to a tree under stress. They carry many diseases with them as they travel from tree to tree. Some trees even give off a stress signal to bugs, which only quickens their decline. You might see more borers in the leaves and in the bark, more root disease, leafspot, and soil-borne diseases in the seasons ahead.

If your yard looks like a battlefield, don't give up hope. Get the wheelbarrow out and pick up debris. Cut all broken branches out of your trees, being careful to make a clean, angled cut with sharp pruners or a saw. Make sure you disinfect your blade with a bleach solution between each cut so you don't transfer a disease to other plants in your yard.

Once the cosmetic work is done, give your trees and shrubs a dose of fertilizer that has a low first number. That number is for nitrogen, which helps leaves grow. Because we are winding down the growing season, you just need to think about the roots and shoots for now. After things dry out, aerate badly flooded areas to help give the soil more air circulation.

If your yard is waterlogged, try to get surface water draining as soon as possible. Many lawns were still lingering in dormancy, so they may easily bounce back. If the water sits in one spot for more than a week, you may need to replant next spring.

Don't worry. That will be another fun project for us next year!

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at: kheidbreder@theblade.com.



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