In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2004
Regional Report

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Bathers enjoy Gulf Shores, Alabama, before Ivan changed the landscape.

Changing Tides

Our region is facing unparalled challenges in the aftermath of hurricane season 2004. There's plenty to do, and some things to put off, to help gardens recover from serious storms.

Safety First
Cleaning up takes time, so make a plan that will get the work done safely. Removing trees and limbs is exhausting even for those who make a career of it. Tired muscles can make for slow reflexes, leading to accidents with chainsaws and machetes. Locate the essential hazards and remove them first, then work on the smaller problems in phases. Avoid working with power tools in slippery areas where leaves can cover holes and other debris that may trip you up. Be smart: let someone know where you'll be working, in case of trouble.

Chop, if Possible
Even in gardens not ruined by the storms, disposal of big, damaged plants can be a challenge. Where whole plantings have been flooded or ripped up, the amount of compostable material is huge, but the scale can be daunting. Rather than wait for that green matter to rot (and smell), use a version of sheet composting to dispose of it and renew the soil at the same time. In flowerbeds, fencerows, and hedge plantings, simply dig a shallow trench and bury up to 6 inches of rotten stems, leaves, and other green matter. Cover with the soil you dug out, and tamp down. When burying isn't possible, and the slime factor is gaining on healthy rot, use a stiff rake to turn the piles and sprinkle them with garden lime. The process may not go any faster, but the debris will be more pleasant to be around while you're cutting those limbs overhead.

Better Days Ahead
Gardens and beaches may not look like they once did, but don't give up too soon on plants; cut back, but don't remove anything that still has life in it. You may be surprised at your plants' resilience, and retaining a few old plant friends can be comforting.

Change is inevitable, and gardeners make the most of it. When treasured trees finally reach mature height, we shift to shade-loving plants beneath them. If the tree is lost, a sunny patch emerges and we plant that, too.


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