By Heather Kirk-Ballard, LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will begin on June 1 and last until Nov. 30. Now is the time to prepare your yard, gardens and landscapes for bad weather. According to AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowksi, this season will be “above average,” with an increase in the normal number of tropical storms and hurricanes.
We never really know what’s ahead. It could be a category 4 hurricane or a tropical storm, but we can be proactive and prepare. With a season that lasts nearly half a year, it should be something we keep up year long. Here is a list of things to consider doing to get ready.
Start with the trees.
Perhaps the most laborious task will be to check your trees and plants. Inspect large trees and shrubs for dead branches. Be sure to remove dead branches a storm can lift and throw into the house or other structures in your yard. If you have any dead trees or shrubs in the landscape, have them removed by a certified arborist. You can consult the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry website for a list of certified arborists by going to https://bit.ly/LaArborists.
Prune any plants close to the house a couple feet out as well as any tree branches that rub the roof. If you have palms, remove any hanging or dead palm fronds. Make sure that any debris or wood that is removed is taken away from the house site immediately.
Put away your tools.
Be sure that anything that can be picked up by a heavy wind is secured. That includes tools, chemicals, trellising and planters. If a storm is predicted with heavy winds, be sure to move container plants, hanging baskets, sculptures, figurines, flags, bird feeders, patio furniture and any other lose items to a secured area. Large container plants that are too heavy to move can be laid on their sides during the storm. Be sure to place them upright after the storm has passed. Light items such as tarps and above-ground blow-up pools not filled with water should also be secured.
Keep drainage systems clear of debris.
This is likely the most important task for doing your part to keep stormwater from causing floods. Keep the stormwater systems clean by picking up grass clippings, leaves and other yard debris that could clog storm drains. Secure mulch by placing a barrier to prevent it from being washed away in a heavy downpour. Place pavers or other stones under downspouts to prevent soil erosion.
Make sure gutters are clear of leaves, branches and other debris so water moves away from your home in heavy rains, and check that all gutters are securely fastened to the house.
Turn off automatic irrigations systems during the week of a storm. With all the rain, the last thing the yard will need is more water. And every Louisianan was programmed as a small child to cut the grass before the storm. Who knows how long before you will be able to cut it again. At that point, you may be weedeating the whole thing if you don’t get it cut before the storms.
If you have rain barrels and compost bins, be sure to secure them before the storm. If the bin is not full and you can move it, relocate it to a secure area. For rain barrels that are full, leave the spigot open and disconnect any gutters and hoses attached to them.
Unplug water features and fountains and be sure they are secure. Protect electrical cords and boxes by covering them.
If you have a vegetable garden, harvest anything you can. If flooding occurs and vegetables remain underwater, they are likely to spoil.
It’s best to keep yards and patios tidy during this time of year to ensure you can react to a fast-approaching storm with minimal effort. Stay ahead of the storms and check weather regularly. Stay safe out there.
Photo: An arborist attaches a strap holding a damaged tree branch to a crane’s hook. Licensed arborists should be called when cleaning damaged branches from trees in preparation for hurricane season. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter