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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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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