Start post storm repair to garden with safety check
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Start post storm repair to garden with safety check

Jun 30, 2023

Last week’s storm has left a lot of damage. Most of you have probably at least started the cleanup. But a few reminders may save you some time, energy and maybe even prevent an injury. Please consider the following:

Always check for downed wires before you start cleaning up. As I write, there are still people without power. This is most probably grid or supply problems as most wires and roads seem to have opened.

Take pictures before you move things and as the project progresses. If you plan to file an insurance claim, you will need them.

Speaking of insurance, check with your carrier to be sure you don’t need an adjustor or estimate before you begin work.

Keep copies of all bills, agreements, or contracts for the project.

Do not attempt a project that is too big. If you have no experience with such projects, if the tree/pole has fallen on the house or other building, or if the damage include moving or cutting large pieces of wood, hire a professional. At least once a year, usually after a storm, some homeowner is badly injured or killed by a falling limb or trunk.

If the project requires that you cut branches over your head, hire someone else.

If you will be doing your own cleanup:

Use the right equipment: A saw in good condition, chain saw oil, a sharp and properly installed cutting chain, fresh gas/outdoor rated electrical extension cord/charged battery for your equipment.

Use proper safety equipment: Goggles for eye protection; earplugs or earphones to protect hearing; padded gloves to reduce vibration and give you a good grip; closed toe shoes with good traction to protect feed and reduce slips and falls.Wear fitted clothing so that you don’t catch anything in your equipment.

Never allow the running blade of a chain saw to dig into the soil or hit the pavement. This is not only bad for the cutting chain but can also dislodge it from the rest of the machine. At the least, it will create a jarring kickback.

Examine any ladder that you intend to use. Make sure any joints or mechanisms are securely locked and there are no broken, cracked or damaged rungs. Never use the top rung or step of the ladder to stand on. Always have someone there to steady the ladder, hand up equipment and overlook the process to see potential problems or dangers.

Never work alone. A helper will not only save you effort by handing you what you need but is also there to stabilize ladders, watch what you are doing and alert you to danger, keep others out of the area while you are using dangerous equipment. They are also there if you have an accident and need medical assistance.

Don’t combine risky work with intoxicating alcohol or drugs. Save that for after you’ve finished for the day.

Make sure you know how to operate power equipment. Chain saws, wood chippers and stump grinders are powerful and dangerous if used improperly. They are also quite heavy. Have help to move them and consider having rented equipment delivered and picked up.

That covers most of my concerns with downed trees, wires, and poles. But that isn’t the end of the cleanup. Not every problem is down on the ground.

Look up. A broken branch may be hanging down but not completely severed. Broken branches are rarely clean cuts. The damaged stumps on the trees are great sites for pests, rot, and disease to enter your trees/shrubs. A good cut will be just like your pruning cuts —clean and even, back to an appropriate joint or collar. Your tools should be sharp and disinfected between cuts, or at the least, between plants. This practice prevents you from transferring a disease or fungal problem from one plant to another.

I mentioned the collar. This is that raised ridge between the trunk and a branch. When you make a cut on a branch that has a collar, avoid damaging the collar. This part of the plant is going to grow over the wound and seal out threats to the tree.

Don’t cut without making sure that there is nothing in the way. Watch out for electrical, telephone or cable wires in the branches. Make sure there are no braces or structural wires in the plant.

Remember to examine your other plants. Maybe something fell on them, maybe the wind tore and broke smaller branches, or maybe they were trod on during other cleanup projects. Trim damage, keeping in mind the desired shape of the plant.

Please take care and follow safely recommendations. There is no dishonor in recognizing that you need help with a task or that the project is beyond your knowledge or physical limits. Be safe.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at [email protected] or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Planting: Sow seeds for fall flowers and foliage: pansies, snapdragons, mustard, cabbage and kale. Plant but protect from heat: late-season cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and broccoli for late summer or early fall harvest. Also sow seeds that require a cold period for germination; poppies are one example. Purchase asters and mums for your fall display, either in the garden or as part of a container display. Hold new plants until the weather cools. Gather pots together to make watering easier.

Seasonal: Stake tall flowers and provide supports for vining plants. Allow the final flush of flowers to go to seed. Many provide food for the birds and small mammals during the fall and winter. Take cuttings of those annuals that you want to winter over or other favorite plants that have grown too big to move indoors. Order asparagus, rhubarb, bulbs, flower and fruit plants, and shrubs for fall planting. Shop nurseries for end-of-season bargains or new fall arrivals. Weed often and cut off flowers of any weeds you don’t get pulled out. Deadhead flowers and trim damaged, diseased, and dead foliage to keep beds tidy and encourage reblooming. In particular, keep irises and daylilies from forming seedpods. Allow peony greens to grow until fall and then cut back. Prune summer-flowering shrubs about two weeks after flowering. Apply corn gluten based weed control in the garden and establish a schedule for reapplication, usually at four to six week intervals

Lawn: Purchase seed for fall lawn projects and broadleaf weed control. Plan sodding projects and order sod for early fall installation. Treat for chinch bugs and sod webworms. Purchase fertilizer and, if desired, apply now until mid-October. Cut as needed, based on growth not schedule, to a height of about 2 ½ to 3 inches tall. Use a sharp blade. Keep newly seeded or sodded lawns watered; supplement rain in weeks where less than an inch. Apply preemergent crabgrass control. Fill in holes and low spots in lawn. Apply corn gluten based weed control in the garden; reapply at four to six week intervals.

Chores: Start planning for fall. Order bulb and plants for early fall shipment. Start getting plants ready to bring in. Repot those that need it and pot up those you want to winter over indoors. Harvest crops regularly, at least every other day. Check hoses; replace washers and correct leaky connections. Dump standing water and remove anything that may collect rainwater to help control mosquito populations. Check seed inventory for late crops and fall planting. Water any recent plantings and containers anytime we experience a week with less than an inch of rain. Note damaged caulking around doors and windows. Provide deer, rabbit and groundhog protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste or scent deterrents. Clear gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from house foundations.

Tools, equipment, and supplies: Check and store winter/fall equipment, repair or replace as needed.

Safety: Clear lawns of debris before mowing and make sure pets, children and others are well away from the area being mown. Store garden chemicals indoors away from pets and children. Discard outdated ones at local chemical collection events. Photograph storm damage before clearing or repairing for insurance claims and file promptly. Anytime you are outside and the temperatures are about 50 F or warmer watch for tick bites. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on the skin. Apply a permethrin product to clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, hats and long pants when working in the garden. Stay hydrated. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages. Even in cold weather, apply sunscreen, wear hats and limit exposure to sun. Wear closed-toe shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use ear protection when using any loud power tools.

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Week in the GardenPlanting: Seasonal: Lawn: Chores: Tools, equipment, and supplies: Safety: