Gardening: Time to recover our gardens

Eileen Ward
Columnist
Tallon Trammell tosses yard waste into a dumpster following Ian.

Hurricane Ian was a really scary hurricane. Just 100 miles farther south and we would be Fort Myers Beach. We always hear about storm surge and how deadly it is but until you have experienced it, you cannot fathom the water’s force. 

This hurricane was moving very slowly which is why we suffered as much surge as we did. As my husband and I sat in our kitchen watching the hurricane, we kept saying the water would not come much higher. Then it left the canal and began creeping up the back yard, enveloping first our lanai and pool and then flowing between the houses out to the street until our yard and street had become one with the Gulf of Mexico. 

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And then it came into the family room, which fortunately sits lower than the rest of the house. And the garage was flooded. And we had waves lapping at our front door which held mostly but required towels to contain it. As we watched the storm on our cell phones, we knew it was leaving the area and we prayed it would leave before coming high enough to damage the entire house. We were lucky. It stopped about an inch from that level.

So now to our yards! They are all brown as well as most shrubs that were under water. St. Augustine is a fairly salt tolerant grass and the water receded quickly enough from most areas that the lawn should recover. The good news is the weeds and crab grasses are not so salt tolerant, so we may see fewer weeds next month.

After Hurricane Irma, when the south end of the island flooded, I expected to find dead, brown lawns and instead they were lush and green. My theory is that the grass tolerated the salt and actually thrived on all that great organic matter from the surrounding mangrove islands and bottom of the gulf. We have been very dry so run your sprinklers to wash off some salt and to keep the grass healthy. 

The shrubs should also be washed off as soon as possible. Some may survive and some more sensitive to salt may not. Flush, flush, and flush some more with water. I would also be sure to water and flush any areas where you plan to plant annuals next month. Maybe wait until we have had a few good rainstorms to do that.

And if you are replanting trees and shrubs that were uprooted, be sure to use some mycorrhizal fungus products and use the end of the hose to wash the dirt back around the roots. Air is not a friend to a root zone.

I will write more later, but I am still getting my house back in order so will close this for now. My thoughts are with all the people who lost everything, some their loved ones. Let us remember this storm and evacuate when they say a storm surge is coming!

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Peter and Eileen Ward have sold Greensward of Marco after 40 years in the lawn and landscape business on Marco Island. You can reach Eileen with comments or questions on her columns via email at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or call 239-269-0192.