Bracing for the storm: Dan Gill offers tips on landscape safety both before and after wind and water | Home/Garden

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With a storm looming, taking care of your landscape is only partly about helping your plants survive — it’s also about keeping your home and family safer. Here are some things to think about now, and in the future.

When a storm threatens

Secure loose objects in your landscape. Look around your grounds for container plants, hanging baskets, tools, lawn furniture (including porch swings), toys, bicycles, bird feeders, wind chimes, barbecue grills, playhouses and doghouses. These items can become destructive missiles during high winds and should be stored indoors in garages or sheds or anchored securely in place.

If you have a vegetable garden, harvest all vegetables that you can before the storm hits to get them out of harm’s way. There likely will be little left if high winds occur. Any produce covered by floodwater will have to be discarded.

If you have removed the stakes from young trees planted within the last few years, consider re-staking them just before a hurricane to prevent them from blowing over. Make sure the stakes are driven deeply and securely into the ground.

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And finally, if you are the organized sort, make a list of the things you bring inside and where you store them, and a list of things that need to be tied down. Make these lists part of your family’s emergency plan for future storms. Include notes on how long it takes to secure things. Make sure you keep the necessary equipment, including anchors, on hand for the future.  

After a storm

First, consider safety during the cleanup. Debris can be sharp and dangerous, and downed power lines are common immediately after a storm. Here are a few things to do in the landscape.

TREES: Straighten, reset and stake any small trees or tall shrubs that may have been blown over as soon as possible, especially if roots are exposed. This is practical with only small, younger and easy-to-manage trees planted within the last seven to 10 years. In general, it is best to remove larger trees that are severely leaning or have fallen over.

Newly reset trees will need to be staked to support them until they reestablish a strong, new root system. Leave stakes in place for nine to 12 months. Limited pruning may be done at the time of resetting to remove damaged branches.

Be on the lookout for large branches that may have broken but are still hanging in a tree. These are particularly dangerous and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Ragged, broken stubs where branches broke off should be pruned cleanly back to the branch collar as soon as it is convenient, but this is not an immediate necessity.

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LAWNS: Remove debris and silt deposited by floodwaters on your lawn, ground covers and low shrubs as soon as possible. Use a rake to remove much of the larger material, and then use a hose with a nozzle attached to wash off the remainder.

GARDEN BEDS: If high amounts of rainfall have occurred, remove all mulches from around shrubs and in beds until the soil has had a chance to dry out, and then replace it.

If the ground stays saturated for an extended period, roots may drown and die or root rots may occur. To speed the drying of soil in beds, use a garden fork to aerate the soil.

Insert the fork tines straight into the ground to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and pull them straight out. Do not dig with the fork. Repeat this throughout the bed spaced about every 10 inches. This also helps provide oxygen to the roots.

VEGETABLE GARDENS: Follow the above recommendations about removing the mulch from saturated beds and aerating them.

Do not eat any vegetables that were covered by floodwater. Harvest any produce that was on the plants and discard it. However, fruit on fruit trees that held up out of the floodwaters should be OK.

Next time around

We all hope that this will be the end of storms for 2021, but remember that the hurricane season goes on until Novermeber, and September is historically the most active month.

When there’s a calm period, do some evaluation on your trees.

A tree that is sickly, low in vigor and shows significant signs of rotten or decayed areas in the trunk or termite damage should be cut down if it poses a threat to buildings.

Otherwise, look for any large, dead branches in the tree. Remove them, especially if they pose a threat to the house. Remember that large trees can impact more than your own property, so consider how your tree might affect neighbors as well.

Look for branches that hang over the house near the roof. The high winds of hurricanes can cause trees to bend and branches to flail around and damage nearby structures.

Large trees that are one-sided or leaning should be pruned to balance out the canopy.

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Do minor tree trimming well before a storm approaches.

Having your trees evaluated professionally and getting problems corrected takes time. That’s why it is so important to take care of trees well before a hurricane threatens.

All practicing arborists must be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. A list of licensed arborists by parish is available at the website of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Use this list to ensure you are selecting licensed companies and individuals.

Licensed arborists also must be properly insured. Ask to see certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage and workman’s compensation. Then phone the insurance company to make certain the policy is current.

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