Garden Talk Q & A
University of Florida/IFAS Extension Director for Nassau County and Environmental Horticulture Agent IV, Rebecca Jordi answers questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida.
QUESTION: My large holly tree fell over after the storm, can it be saved? BA
JORDI: Only trees recently planted or those with a trunk diameter smaller than four inches should be staked or replanted if they have fallen over during a storm. Large or older trees need to be removed as they were most likely compromised anyway.
If the tree is small enough, prop it back up and do the following: Keep roots moist but not wet. If the hole is holding water, this might not be the best site for the tree – consider moving it to another area.
Trees and shrubs grow best in well-drained soil. Be sure the new hole is wide enough to hold the roots but never plant it too deeply. The large roots coming off the trunk should be within the first few inches of soil. Remove any circling/girdling roots while they are exposed. Remember the roots should be going away from the trunk of the tree like the spokes of a wheel. Prune any jagged and torn roots. Set the tree upright and fill the hole with native soil – do not be tempted to add amendments to the hole.
Tree Watering “Rules”
Water the soil in as this will remove any air pockets. Good rule is to water with 3 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter. This can be done 3-4 times a week for several weeks until the tree becomes established.
Do Not Fertilize
In addition, this is NOT the time to add fertilizer. We want the tree to put out new roots only – not new shoots or flowers.
It would be best to stake the tree while it is vulnerable but only leave the stakes on for 6-9 months. Be sure the cables do not cut or girdle the tree trunk. Normally, we would not suggest you do any pruning on the tree canopy but remove any cracked or broken limbs at this time. Remember we do not recommend painting over the wound of the tree – allow the tree to heal over the wounds. Keep grass as far away from the tree as possible – a best management practice all the time.
How To Mulch Trees
Mulch several feet away from the trunk – never allow mulch to touch the trunk of any tree. It may take several months to even a year for the tree to overcome the trauma of the storm. Be patient. Regarding palms – just remove any totally dead or broken fronds. Fertilization should not be done again until March of 2017 using only 8-2-12. Then reapply in June and September.
Rebecca L. Jordi
Nassau County Extension Director
UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture
543350 U.S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011