How to Protect Your Garden During Hurricane Season

With all of the tender loving care that goes into a garden, not to mention the hard work and financial investment, it’s heartbreaking to think about losing it all to a hurricane or tropical storm.

But if you live in a coastal region, your plants face the very real risk of damage or destruction from strong winds, floodwaters, or debris from a hurricane. 

Depending on where you live, this will be a particular concern during the 2024 hurricane season, which begins June 1 and continues through November 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted an 85% chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season (impacting Eastern Coast and Gulf Coast states) with about 17-25 named storms with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher, including four to seven major hurricanes with winds of 111 miles per hour.

The news is better for those on the Pacific coast, where lower-than-normal tropical activity is predicted this year, but that is not a promise of no hurricane activity.

There are things you can do to improve your plants’ chances of surviving, should a hurricane or tropical storm reach your home this season.

Planting with hurricanes in mind

First of all, if you haven’t started your garden yet — or you recently harvested and are planning another planting — you can factor in hurricane risk as you plan your layout. Aim for native plants that will be adapted to your local weather conditions. And plant them strategically by using natural windbreaks like hedges or fences to shield them from heavy winds.

It’s always a good idea to take steps to promote healthy, resilient plants, but doing this becomes even more important if there’s a chance that your garden could be impacted by a hurricane. So, make sure your plants have well-draining soil mixed with plenty of organic material like compost. Water deeply, as needed, to encourage deep, healthy root systems. And provide your plants with fertilizer based on their particular needs.

Protecting your plants: Pruning

Pruning your garden plants, including trees, can go a long way to help protect them from hurricane damage. By regularly pruning away dead, diseased, or weak tree branches, for example, you eliminate the risk of them breaking off during high winds, which could further damage the trees even more and slam your garden plants and structures with debris.

Along the same lines, thin out the canopies of your trees and shrubs. A dense canopy can act like a sail in high winds, increasing the chances of the plant being uprooted and broken. Thinning the canopy will allow wind to pass through more easily.

It’s also a good idea to consider reducing the overall size of your larger garden plants. The reduced size could decrease the wind load on them, making the plants less vulnerable to breaking or being uprooted.

A word of warning: Pruning can help protect your plants from hurricane damage, but don’t remove too much foliage. That could reduce plants’ ability to photosynthesize and store energy, making them more susceptible to damage.

Staking trees and plants

Staking can help your tall plants and newly planted trees withstand the strong winds and heavy rains that hurricanes deliver. Place stakes down about one to two feet into the ground.

We suggest using soft, flexible ties (cloth stripes or commercial plant ties) to attach plants and trees to the stakes. They’ll allow for some movement, important for growing plants, and help prevent damage from ties cutting into your plants’ stems or tree trunks. The same idea applies to tying your plants and trees to the stakes. You want to tie loosely enough to allow some natural movement — but still tightly enough to provide support. 

When you’re staking young trees, use two or three stakes spaced evenly around the tree and tie them at different heights. 

In the case of vining plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and climbing flowers, tie them securely to strong, sturdy trellises, cages, or fences using soft ties or garden twine. You can go a step further to protect your vining plants from wind and debris by draping protective netting or garden fabric over them and securing it to the ground.

If a hurricane is approaching, cover your plants

When a hurricane or tropical storm is predicted, you might be able to reduce damage to your plants by covering them.

For small plants and flowers, use materials like cloches (which are bell-shaped covers), garden fabric, or upside-down flowerpots weighed down with something heavy like a brick. The coverings will provide a physical barrier against wind and debris.

Row covers made out of light, breathable fabric could be a good choice for seedlings. They can shield your delicate plants from wind and rain, but still allow air and light to reach them. Secure the covers with stakes or garden staples.

You can set up temporary windbreaks for large plants using burlap, canvas, or staked sturdy plastic sheets. 

Additional to-dos when a storm is approaching

  • If your soil is already moist consider applying a 3-inch layer of mulch over your garden beds and borders. This will help shield the soil from the saturating effects of heavy rains, reducing the risk of uprooting trees. (Even if your soil isn’t moist, a layer of mulch will help protect the soil and your plants’ roots from heavy rain and reduce soil erosion.)
  • If you have any ripe, or nearly ripe, fruits and vegetables, harvest them now. Chances are good that they’ll be damaged in the hurricane.
  • Place heavy bags of soil, rocks, or sand around your garden beds to serve as wind barriers.
  • Move small and medium pots inside, along with portable decorative items, tools, and anything else that could become airborne in a storm.
  • Place trellises, trees in containers, and other large, moveable garden structures on their sides. 
  • As for items that you can’t move indoors, like grills, patio furniture, or large wheelbarrows, strap them down. 
  • Turn off your water valves and irrigation systems. 
We wish we could suggest a list of failsafe steps that would ensure your garden remained unharmed this hurricane season, but as you know, there’s only so much any of us can do to protect our property from severe weather.


1 comment

  • Debra Garrett

    Good advice, and as we along the Gulf coast know, you can never be too prepared because anything and everything can happen!

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