Ernesto down…Next Up?

Although most of the plant damage was very light, I am being asked the same questions over and over. The following tips were put together by David Barkley and me several years ago to help answer the many questions regarding hurricane plant damage. Here are some tips to help you deal with garden recovery.

1.         What do I do about uprooted trees or fallen trees?

Trees under 12 feet or recently planted can be righted and staked.

Trees over 12' may not survive. Stake if possible, otherwise remove.

Trees over 18 feet should be removed.

Any tree which is unsafe to humans or property should be removed immediately.

2.         Should I fertilize the trees to help them survive?

No. Do not fertilize plants this late in the year, wait till next spring.

3.         Tips for Tree Care

* Protect trees from further damage when neighboring trees are being removed.

* Keep exposed roots from drying out.

* Work quickly to cover exposed roots with soil or mulch.

* Remember the 4D's of pruning. Prune out Dead, Diseased, Dying, or Damaged tissue anytime you see it.

* Use the proper equipment for making pruning cuts

... Hand pruners for small cuts less than 1 inch

... Lopping shears for 1 to 2.5 inch cuts

... Pruning saws for 3 inch cuts or more.

* Do not use pruning paints or wound dressings.

4.         Considerations for tree removal or loss in regards to insurance claims.

* Take pictures of damage.

* Contact your insurance agent to determine coverage before taking any action.

* Choose reputable and, preferably local tree service.

* Ask for proof of insurance, workman's compensation, and call the insurance carrier to verify coverage from tree service.

* Insist on a written job estimate and the time required from tree service.

* Be patient, thoughtful, and safe.

5.         Who do you recommend for tree removal?

I recommend only ISA Certified Arborists or professionally trained Arborists. Check under the yellow pages under tree service.

6.         Who can give me a value on the loss of my trees?

Only a certified arborist or a landscape appraiser should be used for legal matters concerning damaged trees.  The loss may or may not (check with your accountant) be reported on your income taxes but you will need professional documentation from a specialist. Landscape companies can give estimates on the cost of replacing the trees with a similar but (usually) smaller plant.  They may need to include in their estimate what it will cost to:

* remove the tree

* grind up the stump

* prepare the site for planting

* purchase and transport the plants

* planting

* mulching

* warranting the plant

* provide a maintenance contract (optional).

7. What can I do about shrubbery damage?

Assess and evaluate damage.

Determine if the plant is worth saving, repairing, or replacing.

Many plants can be replaced more cheaply than they can be repaired.

Is it time to replace it with a new plant?

Most plants will recover with time but it may take years to achieve the same size and form.

8.         What can I do about salt damage? 

Most sea salts are washed off with the rain. Salt deposition or water intrusion along the ocean and waterway is a different matter. For salt water inundated soils, apply gypsum at the rate of 2-5 pounds per 1000 square feet. Do not apply additional fertilizers.

9.         My plants all look brown and dead. Will they come back?

Maybe, it depends on why they are all brown but don't look for colorful displays of fall foliage. REMEMBER don't try to force them with fertilizer or heavy pruning. Next spring will tell the story on plant survival.

10.       When would be the best time to plant replacement plants or to move plants from one place to another?

Fall is the best time to plant or to transplant.

For the curriculum program and or gardening questions, write Dr. Bruce Williams, Brunswick Community College, PO Box 30, Supply, NC 29462 or email