Missing rose buds, pulled up pansies, and damaged tree trunks are all signs that something has been visiting your garden while you are away. But what could it be? Most gardeners are familiar with leaf spots caused by fungal diseases or minor feeding damage by insects, but to see half a shrub or an entire flower bed demolished overnight indicates a different type of pest.
There are several mammals that visit home landscapes and may cause damage, especially in times of drought when natural food sources are limited. Because we provide water for our landscapes, our plants tend to have lush new growth at times when plants in natural areas have slowed growth because of a lack of water or other stressors that managed gardens do not face. So, it’s no surprise that herbivores will be attracted to our landscape for a midnight snack.
It is important to determine what is causing damage so that you can employ protective tactics if possible. Some things to look for to try to figure out who the culprit is are footprints, dropping, feeding clues (bite marks, scrapes, etc.), or other distinctive damage. For more details about how to tell the difference between damage caused by multiple pests see How To Identify the Wildlife Species Responsible for Damage in Your Yard.
Once you have determined what is causing the damage you can try some different strategies to deter future feeding. Some plants may be impossible to protect, but before you spend your money and time check out these recommendations by wildlife specialists at the University of Florida in How to Use Deterrents to Stop Damage Caused by Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard
Figure 1: Palm damage after storm event.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS.
A common question after a tropical storm or hurricane event is will my palm tree recover? Palms grow different from other trees, so there’s definitely a different way to care for them post-storm.
The growing point of a palm tree is the bud, located in the top of the tree. This is where the palm fronds emerge. If this bud area becomes damaged, no new leaves will develop and unfortunately the tree will die. If by chance the palm tree has multiple-stemmed trunks, the undamaged trunk(s) should survive. Often times palm trees are so tall that it is very difficult to visibly determine if the bud has been damaged. Time will tell.
It’s important to wait at least 6 months to see if palms develop new growth. Palms usually rebound slowly after a storm. It may take a couple of years before the palm tree produces a full canopy of fronds. If a damaged palm tree is determined to be in peril and current rainfall is not sufficient, it’s important to irrigate three times a week for at least six weeks to assist in recovery.
After the storm strikes, it may be beneficial to perform pruning of the canopy. Start by removing any hanging broken or dead fronds that could be hazardous to people or property. It’s a good idea to remove any fronds that are covering the bud, as well. This will allow new fronds to form. Leave any bent green fronts attached. These fronds still have vital nutrients that the tree is utilizing. Once the frond turns brown, then it is safe for removal.
Storm damage cleanup is extremely dangerous, even for professionals. During cleanup after the storm, remember that safety comes first. Some general safety tips are essential, as in, do not work alone. It’s important to keep a well-stocked first aid kit too. Avoid overexertion at all costs. This is the most common cause leading to injury. Be sure to survey the area, identify the hazards and have a plan for the cleanup. Above all, create a safe area to work within.
Palm tree recovery from storms is a slow process, so please be patient and safe. Contact your local county extension office for more information.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the following the UF/IFAS publications:
“Assessing Damage and Restoring Trees After a Hurricane” by Edward F. Gilman, Mary L. Duryea, Eliana Kampf, Traci Jo Partin, Astrid Delgado & Carol J. Lehtola: http://monroe.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/Hort/Assessing_Trees_After_Hurricane.pdf
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