Beware the Ides of September... Trees & Storm Damage

I had this all ready written about 2 months ago (because it was going to be topical now) and then forgot it. Hopefully the warning will go unneeded (as opposed to unheeded).

The Autumn equinox passed almost unnoticed (apart from it being the nicest day of the "summer" so far). But the equinox in September is every bit as dodgy as the one in March. Remember poor old Julius Caesar and "beware the Ides of March"?

From a garden tree perspective the greatest risk at an equinox is of severe gales during the period from three weeks before to three weeks after the 21st September. With climate change there is a suspicion that these storms tend to happen later. So the high risk month is October (as in 1987 and again in 2000 and in 2007).

There is not much you can do at short notice, but I would advise giving your trees a quick visual check. What you are after is the sight of a bare branch without leaves. (Unless it is a long suffering chestnut) your trees should still be carrying a good bit of leaf. Bare branches are dead or sick, and dead or sick branches are the ones that tend to come down in a storm. Let prudence be the better part of valour and take any suspect limbs off before they fall on your house or you..

With younger trees that have been staked for the whole of this year and are growing well, get rid of the stake. You need a good reason to leave them staked. Stakes are just crutches; temporary supports and should be done away with as soon as possible. A young tree can't bend as much in a storm if it is staked and tied, and so is more likely to snap. If it has to be staked, LOOSEN the tie, so it can move more in the wind.

When the stormy season is past, and the planting season is on us, I will put up a post that gives you a few hints as to what longer terms steps you can take to minimise the risk to trees in a storm. But for now, here is hoping for gentle winds.

Relax (if you can) and watch your plants grow!

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