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Help your trees cope with wind

Gusty conditions can do a lot of damage

Line of trees
The average mature neighborhood has many varieties of trees, of differing ages. (These are along one side of Del Campo Park in Carmichael.) Watch for wind damage among trees this weekend. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Can your garden cope with wind? This weekend, it’s likely you’ll find out.

According to the National Weather Service, Northern California will experience very windy conditions now through Saturday night.

“Gusty winds are expected today into tomorrow,” says the Sacramento NWS office. “The strongest winds will be in the Sierra with gusts to 50 to 70 mph-plus. Be prepared for downed trees and tree limbs, potential power outages, difficult driving conditions for high-profile vehicles, and impacts to outdoor recreation.”

Sacramento is expected to see gusts of more than 40 mph – enough to topple a tree. At greatest risk are conifers – redwoods, pines, firs and other evergreens. Their foliage catches the wind like a huge sail.

Also at risk are trees weakened by drought – which is potentially most of our urban forest. Although overall water has been good this winter, tree roots may have shrunk dramatically after years of low water. With fewer healthy, strong roots, trees have less support to hold them upright.

Contrary to popular belief, lessening inner foliage or branches on limbs of redwoods and other big trees – a pruning method nicknamed “lion tailing” – does not prevent wind damage. Instead, it weakens limbs and makes them more likely to break off.

But it’s not just big trees that can suffer wind damage, say the UC Cooperative master gardeners.

“Wind can damage bark, flowers, foliage, fruit, and limbs of most any tree or shrub. High winds can severely damage or kill trees, such as when major limbs fail (break) or the trunk topples to the ground.

“Wind-damaged leaves become necrotic along the margins and tips and drop prematurely,” they add. “High wind can break flowers, foliage, and limbs and tear and shred leaves, sometimes called tatters.”

Wind damage looks a lot like other kinds of problems, say master gardeners.

“Wind injury to foliage can resemble damage from frost, hail, herbicide damage, salinity and water deficits,” master gardeners say.

Some plants just tend to get more wind damage than others.

“Plants that grow fast, become tall, and have broad, thin leaves are usually less tolerant of wind,” say the master gardeners. “Smaller plants and those with narrow leaves with a thicker cuticle better tolerate wind.”

Insect damage or disease also can weaken branches and make them more susceptible to wind damage. Prune off diseased wood before it falls off.

For more tips on helping plants cope with wind, see these UC master gardener tips:


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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