Gardening after the storm

Watching the news reports showing the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, I was amazed to see all those leafless trees still standing. Sure, they are stripped bare, but they are still standing. And no doubt within a few months they’ll be green with foliage again, and after a couple of years the forests will start to regain some of their normality, just like after Cyclone Larry.

Plants are amazingly resilient, and as long as their roots stay in the ground and they don’t snap off at the stem, they’ll bounce back. So if your garden has been damaged by the storm don’t worry too much about your plants. Once your property is safe and secure, the job of fixing the garden can begin. Start by clearing away all that is unsalvageable… broken branches, palm fronds, and plants that have been torn out of the ground. If you find a shrub or tree that’s very wobbly but still standing, avoid moving it too much, as every time you move it or try to straighten it you’ll do more damage to the root system. It’s best to hammer in a couple of stakes, and have the rope ready so you can stabilise it in one go. Since the damage to the root system will have reduced the amount of water and nutrients the plant can take up from the soil, it’s also a good idea to trim back the foliage and branches to even up supply and demand a little. Also the less leaves and branches it has, the less it’s going to move around in the wind, so it will stabilise much better.

A lot of trees have the ability to re-sprout from the trunk, even if they snapped off close to ground level. In this case, all you need to do is cleanly cut off the broken section and paint the cut surface with a water based paint, such as the paint farmers use when they prune orchards. Depending on the type of tree, it may re-shoot in as little as a week or two. And if it doesn’t, then at least you gave it a second chance. Most Australian natives such as eucalypts, banksias, and bottlebrushes are excellent re-shooters because it’s an adaptation they have for coping with fires.

The advantage of trees grown this way is that they will grow very quickly because they already have a very well established root system.

As for those plants that have been lost, they’ll make good mulch for their replacements once they’ve been recycled by the council mulchers. And you’ll be able to give a bunch of new plants a home.

See you at Yuruga.