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Damage from recent winds may be extensive

KENNEWICK -- The good news is that summer isn't far away.

The bad news is that we'll be discovering the repercussions of the recent wild and windy weather for the weeks, and maybe even months, to come.

Home gardeners already are bringing me tree branches that are showing significant damage. They have badly torn and tattered leaves. New tree leaves are very tender when they first emerge. When these leaves get whipped about in gusty winds, the violent action of twisting and turning tears the succulent tissues.

One tree branch brought to me was an English walnut with torn leaves and blackened edges along the tears. A little-leaf linden that was subjected to dusty gales in Connell had limp twig tips where the new stems had been and broken. I also noted the bare twigs of many landscape trees where young twig tips or leaves were torn from the tree.

It's easy to connect this type of damage with the recent stormy weather, but less obvious damage may cause concern in the weeks to come.

Somewhat older and slightly tougher leaves on trees also were beaten about by the wind, developing small holes or slight tears from the wind.

As those leaves grow and expand, so will the holes and tears, making the leaves look like something is eating them.

The good news is that this leaf damage will not cause serious harm to trees and shrubs. They will look a little ragged for now, but new growth will come along and they'll be fine.

The bad news is that garden vegetable and flower seedlings and transplants may not have fared as well.

Baby plants are definitely tender and should be cosseted. Many local gardeners who were eager to get their gardens started had transplants and seedlings already up and growing when the winds hit.

Wind can be devastating to young plants by drying out their tissues. Young, undeveloped roots systems aren't able to absorb water quickly enough to replace what's lost through the leaves. Irrigation water may be blown off target, further contributing to drought stress and the potential death of vegetable seedlings. Wind may also have broken plant stems and blowing sand can physically damage stems by abrasion.

This spring has not been kind to our gardens. The bad news is that unprotected melons, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers that survived the wind, were finished off by frost that hit late last week in some parts of our region.

The good news is that there is still time to replant all these warm-season crops that were damaged by wind or frost.

You still can get a good crop of squash, melons and cucumbers by sowing seeds directly in the soil.

You can also replace tomato and pepper transplants. This set back won't cause you to lose much time. These plants will start to take off once warm weather arrives.

I planted my annual flowers last weekend and will be planting my vegetable transplants this weekend. I'm hoping the warm sunny weather is here to stay. I'm tired of dark cloudy days, rain and wind.

I'm ready for sunny days. How about you?

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.

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