Over the past few weeks, gardeners on the east coast of the US and other parts of the country have been experiencing their first wildfire season. This means that even people who have been gardening for years may not be familiar with how to help their outdoor plants recover from the exposure to the smoke, and possibly even ash, coming from Canada. Here’s what to know.
How to help your garden recover from wildfire smoke
The extent of your garden’s smoke and ash damage depends on your proximity to the wildfire, along with the recent weather — especially the wind direction and speed, as well as whether there has been any precipitation. But, generally speaking, there are a few initial steps to take to promote your plants’ healthy growth through the rest of the season:
Your safety is most important
Even if the smoke has cleared at this point, check the air quality index in your area, and wear an N95 face mask. And, of course, don’t go outside if it’s not yet safe to do so.
Carefully assess the situation
Before taking any action, take a look around your garden, doing your best not to disturb any ash or other particles that may have settled on or around your plants.
“Avoid creating clouds of ash that you might accidentally breathe in,” says Brooke Edmunds, a master gardener at Oregon State University Extension with an expertise in community horticulture.
Rinse off your plants
Whether there’s a thick layer of ash, or a thin film of soot coating your plants — or even if they look completely normal — never use a leaf blower to clean them off, Edmunds says.
Instead, she recommends gently sprinkling them with water from your garden hose. “Wear a face covering at a minimum while doing this, wash your hands afterwards, and avoid tracking ash into your house on your shoes or clothes,” she adds.
Keep rinsing regularly
After your initial garden rescue mission, continue rinsing your plants with a hose — both from the top, and underneath the leaves — at least once a week.