Prepare landscape for summer storms

Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  5/24/2008 12:07:19 AM

News Release Distributed 05/27/08

LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill says your lawn and landscape should be one area you pay close attention to while deciding whether you’re prepared if a storm comes your way this summer.

“June marks the beginning of hurricane season, and it’s important to understand powerful hurricanes can affect the entire state – not just the southern portions,” Gill says.

Although we’ve had a couple of relatively mild hurricane seasons since the big ones – hurricanes Katrina and Rita – struck Louisiana in 2005, Gill says he still thinks people are “taking recommendations to prepare for storms far more seriously that they may have in the past.”

But some people still forget about preparing their landscape for storms, he says.

“People make all sorts of plans for their home, the pets, their families and whatnot, but they don’t always think about the landscape,” Gill explains. “As you make your plans, remember there are things that need to be done to prepare a landscape for the possibility of storms and things to do when a storm threatens.”

Check trees early on

One of the big things to do now is to check trees and determine if they need to be trimmed or taken out.

“Trees with trunks that show significant decay and threaten a home or other important structure should be removed,” Gill advises. “Trees that are leaning significantly also should be evaluated for possible removal.

“Remember, too, that large trees can impact more than just your property, so you should consider how your trees might affect neighboring properties as well as your own.”

In addition, look for branches that hang over the house near the roof, he says, adding, “Although the branches may not be touching the roof under normal conditions, the high winds of violent storms or hurricanes can cause trees to bend and branches to flail around considerably.”

Since that could cause extensive damage to the roof, such branches generally should be removed.

The LSU AgCenter horticulturist says it normally is best to have this kind of work done by a professional – a licensed arborist – who has the training and tools to do it right. “You may be able to do some smaller jobs yourself, but taking out big trees or trimming larger branches probably should be left to the professionals,” he says.

Another thing to consider is staking young trees – those planted in the past few years – since they can be easily blown over by high winds. “This will save work straightening and supporting them after a storm if it does blow them over,” Gill says.

Then right before the storm

While those are some of the things to do well before a storm, you also need to take action in your lawn and landscape if a storm is approaching.

“If it looks like a hurricane is likely to head your way, secure loose objects in the landscape,” the horticulturist advises. “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,” he stresses.

If you are the organized sort, you can make a list well before a hurricane threatens of things that need to be brought inside and where you plan to put them – as well as a list of things that need to be tied down outside.

“Buy the necessary equipment, including the anchors or tie-downs, now,” Gill says.

You also need to estimate how long it will take to secure things and make that time part of your family’s emergency plan.

Other points the LSU AgCenter horticulturist says to consider about your lawn and grounds are:

– Pesticides and motor fuels should be stored in areas that are secure and higher than potential flood waters. These products can be hazardous if flood waters spread them through your home or garage.

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

– Aquatic gardens also need some attention if a storm is approaching. Aquatic plants in pots are often set on bricks, cinder blocks and other supports to boost them to the proper level in the pond. These potted plants should all be set on the bottom of the pond until the hurricane passes. You also may want to consider bringing valuable fish, such as expensive koi, inside in a large bucket of water dipped from the pond to protect them.

– Fountains should be turned off and secured, and electrical cords should be unplugged, rolled up and secured.

– If preparing to evacuate and time permits, be sure to water your indoor plants before you leave.

“As you make your plans for how to get ready for an approaching hurricane, prioritize what you need to do so important tasks are done first,” Gill says. “If your area is put under a hurricane watch, begin to do what is needed to prepare your landscape for the storm.”

The LSU AgCenter expert says to keep in mind you won’t have time to focus on your landscape once a hurricane warning is announced, and you certainly won’t have time for it if evacuations are called for.

For excellent free information on preparing for storms and dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane, contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contact: Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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