We love the year-round sunshine and warm climate in Fort Lauderdale, but it does come at a cost. Hurricane season is always a little bit unpredictable, and our gardens usually come out of it with more than a few casualties. While it’s always hard to tell exactly how hard a hurricane will hit, there’s plenty you can do to minimize the damage to your property. Here’s how to protect plants and minimize hurricane damage in your landscape.
Preparing for Hurricanes in Advance
Hurricane-proofing as part of your garden maintenance routine is a smart way to save time and minimize damage when a storm hits. These are steps you can take throughout the year to help your garden survive:
Pick – When selecting trees, shrubs, and perennials for your garden, select ones that have a reputation for withstanding hurricanes. Plant in clusters to allow the root systems to intertwine. This keeps the plants better anchored to the ground.
Prune – Lob off any dead, diseased, or low-hanging branches from trees and shrubs (as long as you have time to safely get rid of them before the hurricane is expected to hit). Prioritize branches that have the potential to damage homes or vehicles. While you’re at it, thin out tree canopies to allow air to flow through.
Purge – Trees or shrubs that appear badly diseased or have rotting roots should be removed as soon as possible. Their weak root systems make these plants a potential hazard during a storm.
Plan – Ensure drainage structures are clear and in good working order. Locate your water valve, gas and power switches, and irrigation system switches so you can access them quickly in an emergency.Protect – Store potentially hazardous chemicals, like pesticides, on a shelf high above the ground in a shed or in a secure place indoors. This will minimize the risk of a bad spill.
Last-Minute Hurricane Garden Prep
If you’ve lived in Fort Lauderdale for a while, you know that hurricanes are inevitable. When you know a storm is a few days away, act quickly to keep your garden as protected as possible. Use this checklist to cover your bases.
Store – Bring all small portable items inside, such as hanging baskets, small to medium pots and containers, garden decor, garden tools, pool toys, and anything else light enough to become airborne. Disconnect propane tanks and bring them inside as well.
Stake – Reinforce small trees and vulnerable plants by tying them to 2x4s hammered deep into the ground. Use strong rope but allow a bit of give so the trees can move around slightly to prevent snapping.
Slough – Clean out gutters to ensure water runs away from the house.
Slant – Lay trellises, container trees, small arbors, or any other large movable structure onto their sides. Cluster them together to keep them from rolling away.
Scavenge – Pick and save any ripe or nearly ripe fruits and vegetables from your property. The hurricane is likely to destroy them.
Strap Down – Tie down any other structure that may move around that can’t fit indoors: patio furniture, grills, wheelbarrows, etc. You may also want to tie down any other vulnerable plants, like vines or cacti.
Shut In – Lock and reinforce windows and doors as much as possible.
Shut Off – Turn off water valves and irrigation systems, and be prepared to turn off power or gas lines.
Post-Hurricane Garden Recovery
When the storm passes, there’s bound to be a little fallout you’ll need to deal with. Help your garden heal with these steps:
Review – Assess the property for damage.
Remove – Discard any debris on the property.
Re-plant – If trees, shrubs, or other plants have been toppled, pull them back up and tamp them down with some fresh soil. Leave plants that seem drowned or damaged alone for a few months, as they may regenerate.
Repair – Address damage as soon as possible, repairing structures and supports.
While the weather is a big reason we love living in Fort Lauderdale, hurricanes come part and parcel with our tropical climate. Luckily, with smart prep and a strong action plan in place, your garden can survive the storm!