Blog module icon

MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

Need Help?
For tips on subscribing, searching, and commenting, please visit our blog FAQ page.

View All Posts

Feb 13

Assessing the Damage

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 8:26 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

 Sierra assessing damage 2
 Sierra assessing the damage
The phone calls coming from Marin this week carried the sad news of trees coming down in the storm. And what a storm it was for all of us! Winds reached gusts over 100 miles per hour here in Lassen, and I understand Marin also carried high winds. My greenhouse door was found in several pieces, and three of the California juniper trees gave way to the heavy gusts and wet soil conditions in the pasture.

Oddly though, it wasn't just the evergreen trees that toppled over like dominos. For years, I've talked in this blog about the importance of thinning evergreen trees. Pruning "open windows" helps prevents sails from forming and high winds from catching and overthrowing these trees. But the calls that came in spoke a different story of deciduous trees being torn apart. After the storm, the old apple tree at our Novato home was found sporting one branch supported by less than a half trunk still in the ground. The gigantic valley oak at the location of our old nursery now lays prostrate. The word of that specific tree going down breaks my heart. Majestic it stood at the entrance to our nursery. Its large branches covered in lobed leaves during the spring and summer protected the shade-loving container plants placed around its massive trunk.

The combination of high winds and saturated ground spells trouble for trees. It also spells trouble for anything in their path when they fall. As gardeners, we have a responsibility to provide the best growing environment for our trees and manage their growing conditions.

 Roots on rock cap 3
 Roots on rock cap
Sometimes little can be done to secure trees on our property if they were poorly planted by others or are growing wild. The apple tree that ripped apart at the Novato home was found to be rotted in the center. Whoever owned the house before us built a 3-foot high retaining wall and backfilled soil around the existing trunk. It was only a matter of time until the tree failed. I have witnessed home construction sites attempting to honor beautiful oaks by building retaining walls on all sides of the trunk and backfilling the earth to the retaining wall, leaving a well around the tree. But water seeks its own level, exposing the oak to all the drainage water around it. Within a few years, these trees are in a state of decline or dead. The juniper trees we lost here seeded and took root on rock cap. Shallow root systems, wet ground, and high winds were a recipe for trouble. Luckily, it was the high tensile wire fencing that caught the brunt of their fall.

Take time to assess potential damage that could occur with another storm like that we experienced this past weekend. Are your trees collecting duff or soil build-up around the trunk? Did you prepare the hole well enough when planting the new bareroot tree? Remember my motto: It is better to put a five-dollar plant in a ten-dollar hole, than a ten-dollar plant in a five-dollar hole!

Did your garden fare well in the storm? Now is the time to check for drainage, standing water, and washed-out mulch areas. Now is the time to fix or change those conditions for the health of your trees and for your safety.


Scott Stokes
March 13, 2015 at 7:30 PM
Great advice. I know of a number of people that I have to forward this blog to.
Charlene Burgi
March 17, 2015 at 9:50 AM
Thank you for your continued support and also for sharing your own great suggestions with other readers!

Leave your comment

You may log in before leaving your comment,
or submit anonymously