When there is so much to do in cleaning up after a storm, sometimes we tend to do too much so that it can all get done. Be safe, don’t add to the disaster.
Be careful with that chainsaw! Photo credit: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.
Here are some suggestions:
- Take breaks and rest often. Mistakes happen when people are exhausted.
- Only lift what you can comfortably handle, lifting with your legs and not your back. Get a buddy to help with heavier objects or wait until a team or equipment can assist.
- Make sure you are adequately hydrated. Always keep water nearby and take a long drink during your breaks.
- Protect yourself against biting pests such as mosquitoes with insect repellent.
- Wear protective gloves, sturdy closed toe shoes and long pants.
- Have a first-aid kit available for minor injuries.
- Make sure ladders are stable and locked into position.
- If you are using any type of power equipment, especially a chainsaw, make sure someone else is around. And protective gear is a must. Read about details in this article.
As Hurricane Michael was barreling through the Panhandle region, wasp populations were at their highest of the year. Winds and flooding destroyed many of the nests of paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and now wasps may be aggressive as they defend themselves or remnants of their nests. All are capable of multiple stings that are very painful. It is very likely that you will encounter stinging wasps as they scavenge for food and water, as well as seek shelter among debris and exposed trash.
Many people are stung by paper wasps after storms. They are not attracted to traps.
Here are a few pointers to help deal with stinging wasps.
- Try not to swat at wasps flying around or landing on you. You may be less likely to receive a sting if you can flick them off.
- Some wasps are attracted to the sap from broken or recently cut trees. Look before you reach. Wear gloves and other protective clothing when moving debris in case you disturb foraging or nesting activities.
- Wasps are also attracted to sugars and water. Try your best to keep food and drink cans covered. Completely close garbage containers or bags that contain food debris.
- Repellents are not effective against wasps. There are pesticides labeled to spray on smaller paper wasp nests if you find one in a spot close to people’s activity. These are usually aerosol pyrethroids or pyrethrins. Make sure you read the label carefully and use the product as directed.
- Do not use non labeled products like gasoline to manage wasps. This is not only illegal but can be dangerous to yourself and the environment.
- There are traps for yellowjackets that you may purchase or make. These only manage those wasps flying around, not any remaining in a ground nest.
Here is a Do It Yourself Yellowjacket trap from UF IFAS Extension.
- Cut the top 1/3 off your 2 liter bottle so that you have 2 pieces.
- Add a bait (fermenting fruit or beer) to the bottom of the plastic bottle.
- Invert the top portion of the bottle into the base, forming a funnel.
- Hang or place traps so they are about 4 to 5 feet above the ground. For safety, place them away from people.
A homemade trap to catch yellowjackets. Photo by Alison Zulyniak
After hurricane Michael many fall vegetable gardens were uprooted, wind whipped or destroyed. All is not lost. The fall and winter vegetable season can recover before cold temperatures set in.
The first step is to assess the condition of the garden. Have plants been uprooted, blown over, or just superficially damaged? If they have been irreparably there is still time to set out transplants or direct seed the garden. Several radish cultivars are able to produce a crop in about 30 days from seed. Many different types of radishes, from Cherry Belle to Watermelon, are available which will offer quick results in this area. It is still prime time to set out Swiss chard plants and other Cole crops such as kale, collards, turnips and mustard. Broccoli could be grown throughout the winter if given frost protection from a low tunnel structure.
Strawberries may also be planted now, to establish themselves from spring production. Carrots are another good option for this time of year.
Please refer to the chart below to assess production timelines:
Broccoli neglected for 2 weeks following hurricane Michael. Fertilizer to follow. Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS
Sometimes plants have suffered wind damage. Remove damaged or dead leaves to discourage fungal disease and encourage new growth. Oftentimes excessive rain has washed fertilizer out of the garden bed and additional applications of nutrients may be needed.
The good news is this fall vegetable season is still salvageable. Even if you are busy with recovery efforts, plant a small container or a few square feet of vegetables for this fall and winter season. Your efforts will be rewarded with a table of fresh produce! For additional information about home vegetable production please refer to this UF / IFAS Publication: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide .
Broccoli trimmed after being neglected for 2 weeks following hurricane Michael. Fertilizer to follow. Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS
One of my favorite native plants is winged sumac. I like this plant not only for its ornamental beauty, but also for its fruit that can be dried and used as seasoning and to make tea. So you can understand my concern when one of my prized winged sumac plants had distorted leaves.
Eriophyid mite damage on winged sumac. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
After doing a little research and speaking with one of our UF/IFAS Specialists, I was able to determine that the leaf distortion was caused by eriophyid mites. Mites are not insects and are more closely related to spiders. They normally have four pairs of legs, however eriophyid mites only have two pairs of legs. They are microscopic, elongate, spindle-shaped, and translucent.
An eriophyid mite. Photo Credit: USDA, Agricultural Research Service.
Eriophyid mites cause galls (sometimes called witch’s broom) on various species of ornamental shrubs. Symptoms include early and late bud distortion, distorted leaves, and possibly plant death. In fact, the species Phyllocoptes fructiphilus is the vector for the viral disease of roses called Rose Rosette Disease. Sometimes the damage can be confused with herbicide damage.
Control options are currently being evaluated for eriophyid mites in the home landscape. Removing distorted plant material and removing it from the site can help prevent the spread of mites. If you suspect eriophyid mites are the cause of your distorted plants then samples should be collected. To collect samples: 1) Prune off symptomatic plant material and immediately place into a vial with rubbing alcohol; 2) label with collection date, plant species, and location; 3) mail to the Landscape Entomology Lab in Gainesville at P.O. Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611.
For more information on eriophyid mites and the sampling process, please see the fact sheet “Unusual Galls on Woody Ornamentals” from Erin Harlow and Dr. Adam Dale.
For more information on other mites that could be infesting your landscape, please go to this link from the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, FL.
Partly uprooted tree from hurricane. Photo credit: Larry Williams
Hurricane damaged plants should be cared for as soon as possible. Partially uprooted small trees and shrubs should be securely staked in their original positions. Until plants are reset, protect exposed roots and prevent drying. Soil, moist burlap sacks or moist sphagnum moss can be put on exposed roots. Remove damaged roots so the tree can be reset at ground level.
Once reset, trees should be secured. Two or three, four-foot long, 2 x 2 inch wood stakes can usually anchor trees with trunk diameters less than two inches. Stakes should be placed about a foot outside root ball and inserted eighteen inches into soil. Secure stakes to trunk with ties made from wide, smooth material or hose-covered wire. Trees two inches or larger in diameter should be guyed with three or four wires or cables. Guy wires are secured to deeply driven short stakes evenly spaced outside the root ball. Guy wires should be run through rubber hose and secured to trunk at only one level. Mark support wires with bright materials to prevent accidents.
Guy wires should be adjusted several times during growing season to minimize trunk injury. Support stakes and wires should stay in place for one year.
Soil should be filled around root area once the tree is staked into position. Firm around roots to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Excess soil over the normal root area can be damaging. Only replace soil that has been washed or worked away from roots.
In cases where all branches were destroyed, remove the tree. This is especially important for trees such as pine that do not normally regain their natural form. You may be able to keep other trees such as oaks, where strong bottom limbs still exist. However, emerging sprouts from ends of large, cut limbs will be poorly secured to the tree and are likely to fall from the tree during a storm. In addition, decay organisms usually enter these large wounds. Trees and shrubs that lost their leaves from high winds can usually be saved and should resume growth.
Any tree work, including tree removal should be done by a professional arborist, preferably a certified arborist. To find a certified arborist in your area contact the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) at 217 355-9411 or at http://www.isa-arbor.com/. You also may contact the Florida Chapter of ISA at 941-342-0153 or at http://www.floridaisa.org/.
Reset plants should be watered twice a week and fertilizer should not be applied. Until re-established, fertilizer will be of no benefit and may injure new roots.
Plants exposed to saltwater, including lawns, should be irrigated with fresh water as soon as possible. Apply water more frequently than under normal conditions.
For additional information, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/disaster-prep-and-recovery or contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.