This year's hurricane forecast calls for a below average season but you have to remember that it only takes one storm to make it a bad year. Hurricanes can hit anytime, even when forecasters do not anticipate them. With this in mind, it is not too early to plan your landscape so in the event of a storm, you don't have to scramble for days to get it ready. With careful planning, getting ready for a storm does not have to be so draining.
The first thing you should do before hurricane season starts is to trim all your trees and bushes. Get rid of any foliage that is dead or might be hanging over your house. If you any dead or weak trees from last year's 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 be 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. Make a list so you know ahead of time what you will have to move. 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, Ixoria, and even my roses seemed to hold up very well during our past hurricanes. You may also want to consider some native plant varieties such as Palmetto Bush, Passionflower, Azalea Bush, Wax Myrtle, Live Oak and Southern Magnolia. Native plants are used to the high winds that can hit during hurricane season since they have been around our area for so many years. 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 mile-per-hour 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 are 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. Remember, the Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, 2014.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.hometowngarden.com.