Protecting Plants During Severe Weather: My Tips & Yours

IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS, I suspect some of us will be swapping horror stories about the destruction that Hurricane Irene foisted upon our gardens. But before the severe wind and driving rain arrive, I’d like to know what efforts — if any — you’re making to protect your plants. I’m doing these five things:

Securing Young Trees. In anticipation of 50-60 mph winds, I’ve tied a newly-planted Kousa Dogwood to four metal stakes arranged at compass points. This way, no matter which direction the wind blows, the tree will be held in place. If you lash your own young trees, be sure to use nylon twine. “Jute” and other biodegradable twines lose their sturdiness when they become wet.

Applying Extra Mulch. To keep rain from compacting the soil in my vegetables beds, and also to keep water from puddling around plants, I’ve padded various beds here with a thick layer of fresh mulch. My favorite mulches — shredded leaves and salt-hay substitute — were not available at this time, so I settled for regular straw, which is probably filled with weed seeds. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Bringing Container Plants Indoors. My vacationing houseplants will definitely come indoors before the storm arrives. What a job — 40 pots in all, including a very large, heavy clay pot which houses my Philodendron monstera. But there’s no way these tender plants can withstand hurricane-conditions.

Taking Down Umbrellas. An open patio umbrella can be easily lifted by wind, and deposited on some precious plant. Why take the chance? My umbrellas will be closed, removed from their weighted stands, and then laid on the ground. Note: In the comments, Kathryn says to bring umbrellas indoors. I’ll listen to her.

Harvesting Tomatoes. If you haven’t already, be sure to pick your large, green tomatoes. I let mine ripen indoors, in paper bags to which bananas have been added.

I hope these tips are of some little help to you. Let me know if you have any stormy-weather gardening tips of your own. In the meantime, keep safe!

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  1. If you have rain barrels, be sure to have an overflow system to direct excess water away from the house! In a pinch last week I hooked up this: cut a milk jug in half, duct tape a hose into the pouring end, then set the cut end under the downspout. Direct the hose away from the house. This prevented excess water from seeping into my leaky basement during a really big downpour. Hopefully you set this up BEFORE it rains, not like I did DURING the rain:)

  2. Terry – great tip. I supposed now would be a good time for me to set up a rain barrel…we're expecting 7-10 inches of rain on Sunday alone.

  3. Kevin, great tips. I'm going to set up stakes like you did, for my baby redbud tree. I'd hate to lose it. Albany, by the way, is expected to get 4-7 inches of rain and VERY strong wind.

  4. It's the big ticket items that I would be concerned with protecting, such as bringing in the teak furniture that could go airborne and crash threw a window. Hauling in concrete/ ceramic birdbaths ,expensive pots and ornaments/ sculpture .
    Good tip Kevin in regards to a four point tree support system.
    I'd also be cleaning out any drainage systems, checking the pool overflow valves and making sure the sump pumps were in working order . Sounds like there is going to be a lot of accumulative water.

  5. Welcome, Michelle – Great points, especially for gardeners who are facing a category 3 hurricane. And thanks for the sump pump reminder. Heading down to my creepy Victorian basement now…

  6. Good luck. We're thinking of you all. From your friends on the other side of the country,

  7. umm – all the advice I've heard is to take umbrellas and other loose objects, such as toys, furniture, etc – inside. I would think that even an umbrella lying on the ground could become a flying object. Not sure about the weighted stand – but me, I'd bring it in.

  8. Erin – Thank you.

    Kathryn – You're right. I'll add your note to the above.

  9. Make sure to lock your stormdoors as well as main doors. Also fill your bath tub with water in case you will be unable to “flush”. Ha – not kidding, really. Any thing outside that is not too heavy to lift gets brought indoors. Good luck to everyone and stay safe. Lana

  10. We opened up the screen house (my “fort”) and staked it down extra with rebar. About 60 houseplants had to come in. We actually forgot one big spider plant and it survived completely unscathed! Lost a huge old blue spruce but that was actually a blessing. My tree guy said it was on its way out anyway. It fell across the road (miraculously not taking any wires with it) so the county came and cleaned it up- free tree service!

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