Extreme Weather Series: Flooding

24th July 2019

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The weather this year has been crazy. First, storms smashed into us with winds gusting up to 90mph, then the cold seemed to linger for months longer than usual, and finally in May we had the hottest bank holiday on record as we all wilted in the blazing sunshine. Such weather can weaken our trees or even be instrumental in bringing them down. Therefore, this Extreme Weather Series of ours aims to help you to prevent the damage weather can do to your trees, or that your trees can do to your property (or someone else’s) in the worst-case scenario.

This article is on flooding, a risk to your trees at pretty much any time of the year, though flooding in growing season, springtime, will likely cause most damage to your garden trees.

Damage comes in the following forms:

  1. Physical damage. This will be due to floodwaters and the materials those floodwaters carried along with them that scar the tree’s surface. Floodwaters can also wash away soil around roots, exposing them to the elements.
  2. Oxygen supply impeded. A tree draws in oxygen from the soil that surrounds its roots – if those roots are saturated by standing water or covered in sediment brought by floodwaters, this process can be impeded and result in harming the health of your tree.
  3. Change to pH. Different trees require different soils – some prefer acidic soil, others prefer alkaline – and they have different tolerances to change in those pHs. Flooding can change the pH of soil, increasing the acidity of acidic soils and decreasing the pH in alkaline soils, which can be harmful to some species.
  4. Chemical run-off. Floodwaters pick up and carry many things; among these are the chemicals of urban or agricultural land – petrol, pesticides, and so forth. In high enough quantities these can pollute the soil and impact the health of your trees.
  5. Insects. These like nothing more than standing water, and post-flood there is likely to be plenty of this around. More water in warm weather means more insects, more insects means more chance of infestation, especially when the tree’s protective bark has been damaged.
  6. Stress. All of the above can cause your trees to be stressed, and, just like for us humans, stress can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to diseases.

A flood is very difficult to prepare for, although you can check whether your property has a history of flooding within the searches your solicitor undertook when you bought your property.

If you are at all worried about the possibility of flooding, then your friendly neighbourhood arborist will be able to advise you on the following:

  1. Improved soil drainage. To ensure that flood damage is minimised and standing water drains away before insects are drawn to it, you will need to ensure that your drainage is improved. Spiking (the creation of holes that are then filled with free-draining material can draw water away), the creation of a soakaway, or the installation of a drainage system can all help.
  2. Tree locations. Ensure that those trees most prone to harm from changes in the chemical balance of the soil due to flooding are positioned correctly in your garden, relocating them to higher ground on your property where possible and appropriate to do so.
  3. Tree species. Choice of species may be fundamental to the health of your trees in flood-prone properties. Those hardy to pH changes are a must, so your arborist will be able to offer their advice on which species might be best for your soil and situation.

After the flood it’s all about cure and planning for the next time.

  1. Insurance claim. If a tree has fallen over or its branches have damaged your own or your neighbour’s property, it may be necessary to evidence that you have done all you can to realistically prevent such an event. All the work your tree surgeon and arborist have done for you to strengthen your trees against a flood situation will work in your favour.
  2. Leaves going yellow/brown, falling early or crown dieback. These can be signs of fungal or insect infestation, or can be simply due to the extreme stress your tree is suffering from. Your arborist will be able to remove diseased roots or branches, battle boring insects, or recommend a health promoting post-flood action plan.
  3. Exposed roots. Tree roots are susceptible to many issues when exposed to the elements. Recover them to ensure they are protected and best able to draw in the oxygen they need for healthy growth.
  4. Tree removal. If a tree has fallen as a result of the flood, or it is beyond saving, then you may need a professional to fell and remove it.

To find out more about protecting your trees from the effects of a flood, or for help with the clean-up after a flood, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.

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