The Storm-Damaged Landscape
Remember that from fall through mid-February is the best time for planting and transplanting landscape shrubs, trees, vines, and most ground covers. Don't move deciduous plants until after their leaves are off.
- Cleanup is the first priority.
- Site analysis - If land forms have been altered, these need to be reshaped. Don't allow heavy equipment to move close to trunks of remaining shrubs and trees. Remember that most roots extend well beyond the outer branches; therefore, heavy equipment can damage roots and compact soil.
- Plants that are leaning should be reset and staked.
- If portions of uniform plantings, such as hedges, were taken out by the storm, select replacements as close to size as feasible. Don't be tempted to cut hard on remaining plants for uniformity. Wait until late winter for hard pruning to help re-establish uniform size.
- Trim partially damaged shrubs and trees as lightly as possible to reshape. Complete reshaping could take several growing seasons. Make a careful decision on this. For example, if one-third of a plant is missing, replacement might be a better choice than commitment to "nursing" the plant back into shape with pruning, fertilizing, watering. A damaged plant will be a "shocked" plant.
- How much damage is too much damage to warrant replacement? If heavy splitting of bark exposing the cambium occurred, a plant will probably not survive. Leave woody plants that are doubtful as to survival in place and wait. Check periodically by scraping bark lightly to reveal green (living) tissue.
- Some uprooted plants can be reset if the root ball is fairly intact with a compact root system and white healthy roots are showing and most of the top growth remains.
- Prepare remaining plants for overwintering. Mulch with 3-4 inches of pine straw, peanut hulls, pecan shells, etc. Recent research shows that established shrubs and trees can be given a one-half rate fertilization after the first freeze. For rates, check Clemson Extension Circular EC 671, Home Landscaping. Don't fertilize newly set plants. Wait until late winter or very early spring just before new growth.
- Contact a county Extension agent if you feel estimates for work are exorbitant.
Be prepared to deal with possible shortages of some plant materials due to the storm. If desired plants aren't available, substitutions using plants with similar characteristics and qualities might have to be made. Check with specialists if this becomes a problem; alternative plants can be recommended.