Ron Kujawski: Cleaning up yard debris after Sandy

Friday November 2, 2012

As this is the last Berkshire Garden Journal entry for the 2012 season, I had planned to leave you with some reminders of gardening tasks to complete before the snow flies.

However, after Hurricane Sandy treated us to her wrath, I've decided to take a different tack and provide a little bit of advice for dealing with the aftermath of Sandy.

  • Carefully examine trees in your home landscape for damaged limbs. Prune those that you can reach easily from the ground. Never climb a ladder to prune branches nor raise a chain saw above your head. Tree work can be extremely dangerous. Spend the money to hire a certified and insured arborist to do work you can't reach. Your life is worth it.

For corrective work on street trees, which are not on your property but in front of your home, contact the town tree warden. Whatever you do, don't ignore tree problems. We're not far from the first snows of the season. These early snowfalls tend to be wet and heavy. Obviously, damaged branches and trunks are most vulnerable to breaking under the weight of wet snow.

  • Reset any small trees that were toppled in the storm. Usually, these are trees that have been planted this year. The odds of saving a tree are high if the toppled tree is reset as soon as possible after the storm. Soils are still quite warm and some new root development will occur this fall.

After resetting the tree, stake it. Start by placing two or three wood or metal stakes into the ground at least 18 inches from the tree trunk. Secure the tree to each stake using flat straps as opposed to wire, garden hose, or rope. The flat strap will cause little or no damage to the tree bark. The straps should be about three feet above ground. Remove the stakes and straps next year in late spring.

  • Push aside mulches from around trees, shrubs, and perennials to hasten drying of soil. Though we didn't get as much rain as anticipated, soil moisture levels were high even before Sandy and this additional moisture can lead to root rot as the excess moisture replaces oxygen in the soil. Speaking of water logged soils, try to stay out of gardens and off lawns as much as possible. Stomping around on saturated soils will cause compacting and eventually reduced plant growth.
  • Remove any silt and debris that were deposited on lawns by flood water. It's likely that grass will continue to grow for a few more weeks and you don't want the grass smothered by silt. It's also been my experience that mowing is a lot easier when there are no branches, bird feeders, old tires, swing sets or other debris on the lawn. Likewise, rake up matted leaves on lawns but be careful when hauling leaves since fallen leaves are favorite hiding places for deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks. These ticks are still active and abundant.
  • Go to the National Storm Damage Center ( and click on the link to "Hurricane Damage Restoration Information" for a wealth of info on dealing with the aftermath of Sandy.

On that note, I hope that you survived Sandy without suffering any serious damage to property or, more importantly, to yourself. In any case, be grateful that you won't have to endure my nagging again until next spring. Have an auspicious autumn and a wonderful winter. I trust that if the powers that be do agree, I'll be back to annoy you with more gardening tasks next spring.


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