Garden Clean-Up After a Storm

by Jenny Peterson on September 9, 2010

in Gardening Tips

If you live in almost any part of Texas from the coast up through Austin and ending in Dallas, you’ve gotten hit hard with rain from Tropical Storm Hermine this week! We got about 8 inches of rain in N. Austin where I live, but we don’t have a corner on the crazy weather market. People all over the place have storms, tornados, high winds, hail, you name it. If you have any warning that severe weather is coming your way, you’ll take potted plants in and cover the tender stuff if you’re able. The rest usually has to tough it out! But what to do after the fact? Here’s a handy checklist, in order of priority, but please feel free to leave a message and let us know how you clean up!

  1. Survey the Damage: Take a trip around your garden and make a list of what’s happened while you took cover inside. This will be your starting point.
  2. Call your Insurance Company: If you received significant damage to your property or landscaping due to a flood, your homeowners’ policy might cover it. It will typically cover a tree that falls over and hits your house, but it may not cover water damage if you don’t specifically have flood insurance. Check with your agent to see what kind of storm damage is covered!
  3. Clear out the Big Stuff: Downed limbs are the first, then any trash or debris that blew in. You can’t work in your garden if it’s an obstacle course. Call a clean-up crew or tree people if you need help. Remember to look up and see if any limbs are now touching power lines! If so, call the city. Compost what you’re able to, drag limbs to the curb for pick-up, and bag up the rest.
  4. Give Plant First Aid: Branches torn? Give them a clean cut. Plants knocked over? Reset them, packing the soil down around the roots. Taller plants downed? Stake them. Ripped foliage? Not a lot you can do there. If the entire plant has been ravaged, you may have to start over. If it’s a few badly damaged leaves, I’d just remove and compost them. Stems bent? If you can’t stake them, prune it off properly.
  5. Watch out For Critters: This is critters good and bad. I’ve always noticed an increase in fire ants after a soaking rain, so be very careful when working or stepping in your garden! Also, if you live near a creek (even an urban one) whose levels have significantly raised due to flood waters, be mindful of a higher snake population.  Mosquitos will be plentiful as well–dump out any stagnant water to discourage laying eggs! And watch out for birds’ nests when tending to your trees–be careful to not jostle them around too much or displace them. If they’ve fallen, carefully set them back up into your tree.  You’ll probably see more toads as well, but I love them.
  6. Give the Compost a Turn: I usually wait a couple days so the pile isn’t so heavy, but I really like to mix it all up after it’s been thoroughly soaked down.
  7. Remulch: If you’ve had mulch displaced by rapidly moving rainwater, you may need to clean up what’s been spread over your walkway or driveway and then get a few bags to replace it in your beds.
  8. Sweep: Obvious? Probably. I just don’t worry about sweeping up leaves and debris until the big stuff is done, but it gives me such a sense of satisfaction to have everything all tidy again.

I hope this checklist helps when you wake up feeling overwhelmed at the garden mess after a storm. Let me know what tasks you tend to, or if I’ve forgotten anything! And don’t worry too much about the small things; but I will grieve with you if your 80-year-old live oak tree keeled over or your prized succulent garden got hailed to smithereens. It’s happened to most of us at one time or another, but remember that Mother Nature is resilient and most things in your garden can bounce back with some time and special care. Now, go on out and get a rake and start cleaning up!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Les Pat September 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

So sorry to hear of all the damage that comes from these storms.

It’s probably a good time to check up top for roof damage, blown off shingles, and debris stuck in your gutters if you have them.

Also, check on any elderly and handicapped neighbors.

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