With the Atlantic hurricane season just days away, we are again going to be faced with a challenging year, according to NOAA forecasters. Most of us remember all too well how much work it was to get your yard "hurricane ready" in just a few hours. Now is the time to plan and prepare your yard so if a tropical storm whirls on our doorstep, getting ready won't be so complicated.
The first thing you should do at the beginning of hurricane season is to trim all your trees and bushes. Get rid of any foliage that is dead or might be hanging your house. If you any dead or weak trees from last years storms, cut them down so they don't have a chance to do damage this year. Take a tour of your yard and make a list of items that would dangerous to leave lying around. This list should include patio furniture, loose garden ornaments, small potted plants, yard torches, arbors and even your gas grill. If you have a shed or gazebo, you might want to add extra tie downs to be sure they stay put and don't wind up in Kansas. You can start early by limiting what you keep out in your yard during the peak months of August and September. If you own a swimming pool, you can throw all your patio furniture into the pool to help keep it from traveling across the state.
There are many plants you can put in your yard that are both attractive and also seemed to hold up fairly well during a hurricane. Hibiscus, Plumbago, Firecracker plant, Ixora, and even my roses seemed to hold up very well during our twin hurricane marathon in 2004. You may also want to consider some plant varieties such as Palmetto Bush, Passionflower, Azalea Bush, Wax Myrtle, Live Oak and Southern Magnolia. These plants seemed to hold up well during past bouts with tropical systems. They also add a natural beauty to your yard.
If you live near the ocean, planting becomes even more of a challenge because you need to have plants that resistant to salt spray. Remember that a hurricane can carry the ocean mist far inland with its 70 plus-mph winds. Plant varieties such as Indian Hawthorne, Saw Palmetto, Confederate Jasmine, Society Garlic, Daylily, Pittisporum, Oleander and Mexican Petunia can do very well in areas where salt spray can be a problem. Gardenia plants also can fare well with less than 25 percent damage and full recovery after one growing season.
When planning your landscape, if you are going to plant large trees, you should always keep the distance from the tree to the house greater than the height of the tree when it is full grown. If you have any trees that are weak or leaning, either have them secured or remove them if they are within striking distance of your home. Another thing to look for is exposed roots. If the soil has been washed away from the roots of your trees, the root structure may be weakened and allow the tree to topple easily. Fill in these areas with soil back to the original ground level.
As you can see, with a few common sense tips and some good planning, you can have both an attractive and safe yard this hurricane season.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.