Apart from the obvious damage when trees are blown over, strong winds can also cause damage to a wide range of plants by shredding and shrivelling their leaves.
- Brown or black, scorched leaves, either on their edges or the whole leaf, turning dry and brittle
- Damage worse on windward side of the plant
- Ripped or torn stems, shoots and leaves
- Ripped or torn stems, shoots and leaves
- Young and small plants may die
What is wind damage?
Obvious signs of wind damage can be seen where trees and large shrubs are blown over, or their trunks are snapped some way up from the ground. This damage is always worse when the trees and shrubs are still in leaf, as these provide more resistance to the wind. So evergreens usually suffer more damage than deciduous plants, and gales in summer often cause more damage than those in winter.
But there are other symptoms that may plants can suffer when being buffeted by strong or cold winds.
Wind causes damage to the leaves of a wide range of plants by shredding them. Leaves can also suffer wind scorch (leaf scorch), where they wither, with a scorched look, with brown or sometimes black colouring either on their edges or over more-or-less the whole leaf. The leaves turn dry and brittle and may fall off. The wind acts like a vacuum cleaner – literally sucking water out of the leaves, and more quickly than the roots can replenish it, causing them to become damaged and/or die.
Wind scorch is worse when the soil or compost is frozen [LINK: Cold and frost damage], very dry [LINK: Drought and underwatering] or waterlogged [LINK: Waterlogging, flooding and overwatering], since the roots cannot absorb water to replace that lost through the leaves.
New and young plants are usually more susceptible to wind damage than fully established ones, since they haven’t established a good root system. The new leaves are more susceptible to wind scorch than mature ones.
Wind rock can damage plants with relatively weak or shallow roots. The wind rocks the stems and leaves back and fore and this is transferred to the roots, which move and break in the soil. Roses, buddleia and Lavatera are commonly affected by wind rock.
Plants, especially tall or top-heavy ones, growing in containers can be damaged when they are blown over. As the damage happens when they strike the ground’ leave upturned containers where they are and only right them when the wind has calmed down.
What does it affect?
- Trees and shrubs, which are blown over or trunks damaged
- The leaves of all plants can be damaged
- New, young growth is most susceptible
How to prevent wind damage
Help prevent strong winds battering the garden by planting hedges or plants suitable for creating natural windbreaks or shelterbelts. Or put up windbreaks made from plastic windbreak materials or even woven plant hurdles. Windbreaks don’t stop the wind, rather they help to filter the wind, reducing its strength. Solid barriers, such as fences and walls don’t filter the wind. Instead, they just deflect the wind over their top and can even cause more damaging turbulence behind them.
A hedge can also create shelter and protect plants from wind scorch. Open, deciduous hedges are better than dense evergreen ones as they are better at filtering the wind.
Cover susceptible plants with horticultural fleece or other suitable protection materials whenever cold or strong winds are forecast.
Move plants growing in containers to a more sheltered position, such as the base of a wall. But be careful to avoid positions, such as alleyways, where buildings create a damaging wind tunnel.
Apply foliar feeds as soon as new growth starts and throughout the growing season to help encourage new growth. Feed all plants with a granular fertiliser, ideally a controlled-release one. These release nutrients into the soil as and when the plants need them to help build up plant strength.
Mulching the soil with a 5-10cm (2-4in) or thicker layer of organic matter, such as bark or compost, will help insulate the soil and help maintain soil moisture levels and so reduce the effects of wind scorch.
If plants have been damaged by wind, don’t give up on them straight away. Many can rejuvenate, but this isn’t necessarily a quick process, and plants may not recovery until mid- to late summer after winter winds. You can then prune out the damaged growth, cutting back to undamaged growth. Then apply a general-purpose granular fertiliser.
Plants that may suffer from wind rock can be pruned back in autumn by around half to reduce their resistance to the wind.
- Horticultural fleece
- Garden fertilisers