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Clean up yard, but carefully

Ahhh, nothing like the crunch of grass on the lawn, the storm debris on the driveway and the droopy hydrangeas.

We’ll be telling our grandchildren about the Storm of 2012 and the Drought of 2012.

Is this global warming, a taste of things to come? Or are we just in a bad groove? Time will tell.

In the meantime, already-stressed trees got walloped by a terrible storm.

The International Society of Arboriculture sent us some advice about what you can do for the survivors.

First, the good news. The society said many trees that lose major branches, have torn bark or are gouged can recover, in time. And there are some “post-storm first aid” tips that can make a difference.

Word of caution first: The society says if large limbs are broken or hanging, or if a ladder or overhead chain-saw work is needed, you should leave it to a professional.

I lost a neighbor in Ohio to one of those hanging “widow makers” a few years ago when he was trying to take down a limb on his own.

Here are some ways you can help your trees:

•If a small tree is leaning or uprooted, help boost it upright. This Old House magazine recommends digging a circle around the tree that’s at least 10 inches across for each inch of trunk diameter and at least 2 feet deep, then using a tractor or “neighborhood muscle” to get it in an upright and locked position. Do not get in the hole, because tension in the roots can cause it to snap back.

•You can do some trimming. The Arboriculture society says you might be tempted to “top” your tree – cutting main branches back to stubs – but resist. The tree will likely respond to topping by putting up a bunch of weakly attached branches that are even more prone to breaking in the next storm.

•Fertilizer is not medicine. Don’t use it when it’s this hot and dry.

•If you water your trees, do so deeply, slowly and once a week. Frequent, shallow watering with a sprinkler encourages shallow roots and rotted bark, particularly if it’s already damaged. It is better to water in the morning than any other time.

•Check to see whether your homeowner’s insurance will cover any storm damage to your plants and other landscaping. A little extra cash can help pay for some expert aid.

Speaking of aid, the Better Business Bureau of northern in Indiana has been warning folks to be on the lookout for “storm chasers” who promise work and deliver nothing but heartache.

Get a written contract before any work begins that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor and a time frame for the work to be done. Require a copy of the company’s current certificate of insurance. Oh, and if they have out-of-state plates, want the check to go to an individual instead of a company or say they can do it cheaply if you give them cash now … just say no.

Best drought site

The Purdue Extension has an online page devoted to the Indiana drought that offers a number of links and tips. Go to www3.ag.purdue.edu/extension and look for the “Drought information” link.

Anne Gregory is a garden putterer, not a gardening expert, and The Journal Gazette Web writer and editor. Share your garden photos (JPEGs, please) and gardening tips. They may be sent to agregory@jg.net. Put "Garden" in the subject line. Items may also be sent to Gregory at 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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