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Barton Springs Nursery

Now that the storm is over, now what?

We know that many of our customers are dealing with major storm debris, broken tree limbs, leaf debris and fallen trees, and we want you to know that your garden and landscaping concerns are our top priority here at Barton Springs Nursery. We have all had a lot of loss and we are in this together.
To help your garden recover from the storm damage and how to deal with the cleanup, we have some smart, safe storm recovery tips for you.
First, make sure the ice has completely melted before you do anything. Breaking off ice can also break off branches and do more damage. Be patient and make sure the ice and snow are completely melted before you intervene. Often a plant appears in worse shape when weighed down by ice than it actually is. 

1. Clean Up Damaged Trees

For trees, be patient until the snow melts. There is little you can do to help trees weighed down by snow and ice. Trees and shrubs bent, but not broken, by the weight of snow and ice will often recover without special care. Downed trees is one of the most dangerous and damaging outcomes of a powerful storm. If you find you'll need to remove a tree, call an arborist to do any major removal. Stay safe! Of course, never cut limbs tangled in power lines – call the power company instead. Anytime removing a branch requires a ladder or a chainsaw, you should strongly consider hiring a tree care professional to do the job. 
They will need to assess the damage and determine whether a tree is to be saved or removed. Smaller ornamental trees and foundation plantings may just need some cleanup to broken branches. We have a list of arborist recommendations if you need a contact. 
Once the snow has melted, assess the damage. If only small limbs and twigs are damaged, the tree will likely make a full recovery on its own. If many large branches are damaged, the tree may be able to recover with conservative pruning and care, and time. A certified tree care professional can help assess the damage and determine a plan of action.
Young, recently planted trees that have fallen over can usually be saved. Cover any exposed roots as soon as possible to protect them from drying out or freezing. Mature trees and trees with trunks over 10-12” in diameter that fall should be removed. In addition, trees that partially uproot and have over 1/3 of their roots exposed are typically beyond help and should be removed. 

2. Damaged Shrubs

If shrubs are weighed down with snow, sweep the snow off the branches with a broom. Always sweep upward – sweeping from the top down can result in more broken branches. If the snow is frozen onto branches and will not easily dislodge by sweeping, allow it to melt naturally. Don’t shake trees and shrubs to remove snow.
Make sure you are removing just the ice around a plant and debris. Clean up any debris that might have blown around shrubs. If they were damaged, you will need to do some “mandatory” pruning. Most plants are resilient and will be no worse for wear come spring, but this storm was unlike others, and there will be more loss than in other years past. Supplements rich in potassium such as liquid seaweed will aid in the recovery of damage/injured plants. 
Most shrubs damaged by snow and ice can be severely pruned if necessary. Wax myrtles are particularly prone to breaking when weighed down by snow and ice but can be cut back to within a few feet of ground level and will regrow, usually within one or two seasons. Most broadleaf evergreen shrubs (camellias, azaleas, hollies) and deciduous shrubs (spiraea, butterfly bush, knockout rose) can be treated this way, but conifers (thuja, juniper, cedars, arborvitae) cannot. Conifers that break apart in ice storms will not recover and should be removed. Keep in mind spring blooming shrubs cut back now will not bloom this year. 

3. Prune & Remove the Damage

After dealing with major damage, (such as fallen trees) move on to removing snapped branches, bent or damaged growth and broken leaves. Also, clear away any build up of mud and debris that is clinging to the trunk or basis of plants/trees. This will help reduce the risk of secondary infection from high mud levels and dead plant materials. If plant residue is left on or leaning against other plants, it can begin to rot and in doing so, it will cause other plants to rot as well. Root flares of trees need to be cleared of any organic debris.
Remember to go slowly. When trying to prune and clear away a storm-damaged garden, do the least pruning necessary at first. Over time, your garden will let you know what needs to be removed and what can stay. This can happen within a week after the storm passes. New shoots will form, new buds will develop, and these are essential keys to tell you how a plant is responding to storm damage.
When pruning broken branches, know where to cut. Cutting in the wrong place can lead to decay, failure in future storms, and tree death. Smaller pruning wounds are preferred, even if they leave what looks like a stub. 
When pruning trees you wish to preserve, consider hiring a certified arborist. Pruning large trees and assessing tree health requires specialized skills and knowledge. If you are concerned about the health and strength of trees on your property contact a certified arborist to assess the situation. Certified arborists are highly qualified tree professionals and reach out if you would like recommendations.
Do not over prune – leave as many limbs as possible. Removing more limbs than necessary reduces the tree’s ability to feed itself through photosynthesis that takes place in the leaves. Trees may look uneven or out of balance immediately after pruning, but will fill in within a few seasons. Help trees and shrubs recover from storm damage by applying a slow-release or organic fertilizer. 
Never have a tree topped! This practice, which cuts back all large structural branches of a tree is extremely damaging and weakens trees in the long run. If topping is your only option, the better choice is to have the tree removed and replace it with a smaller growing, stronger wooded species. 

4. Recycle

While storm damage is never pleasant it can open up new areas in the garden, allowing for change as well as providing fertile compost for a renewal of beauty as the garden recovers. Try to look for a silver lining as you clean up, maybe a new view, richer soil, or a chance to take your garden to the next level. Consult as at Barton Springs Nursery for species that have shown to be robust in the face of such extreme events.

5. Prepare the Soil

Consider adding generous amounts of organic material in the form of compost to veggie and flower gardens. Although native beds require less of this type of amendment, a minimal amount usually helps a new crop become established. Consider adding organic fertilizers this spring to foster optimal and healthy growth of new roots.

6. Replant/Restore/Revitalize 

We were all hit hard by this storm, but we are also working to rebuild. Once you are ready to replant, consult with a Barton Springs Nursery team member if you need help. We continue to strive to offer the best selection of appropriate plants for our soils, climate and environment. However, since that’s changing, we are all learning together. We are taking careful notes of what has faired well during this recent event. 
Lastly, our hearts go out to those of you who have had loss during this time. It has been devastating and we know it’s not over yet. We are dedicated to buying local where ever possible and supporting our local community. We will all work together to rebuild and restore. 

As we replant Austin and reinvent our landscape, let’s remember to have fun with this. We all love plants and plants make us happy, so let’s keep in mind that we want to enjoy this process.