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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 Oct. 2

Plan to make the most of the mild weather in your garden.

* October is the best month to plant trees and shrubs.

* October also is the best time to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to planting holes or beds, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

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