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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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For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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