As the country begins taking stock of the damage caused by hurricane Ophelia and works to restore power to much of Scotland and Northern England, gardeners throughout the country are lamenting the destruction of their gardens.
It may seem strange to worry about a ruined garden while there are people living without electricity, but many of us pour our hearts, souls, hard work, and time into crafting our ideal garden space. Gardens provide a refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life where we can relax and forget about the world beyond the garden fence for a little while. So, to see the sanctuary you have created ruined can be disheartening, to say the least.
As upsetting as watching your hard work vanish overnight may be, it is a good reminder that some things are simply beyond our control. As such, rather than getting upset or angry, use that energy to refill your gardener’s optimism. Look at the damage as an opportunity to improve and strengthen your garden rather than as a disaster.
What is weather damage?
Following periods of extreme weather or single events, such as storms or heatwaves, it is common to find damage on the plants in your garden. While assessing the damage it can be easy to mistake some of it for evidence of pests or disease as the symptoms are similar to those found in weather damaged plants.
The main symptoms to look for when inspecting your plants are:
- Brown leaves. The browning of leaves can occur on plants following large storms with a heavy, prolonged rainfall. This causes the soil around the roots to become waterlogged which causes buried roots to rot.
- Scorched leaves. Finding scorched leaves or smaller scorch marks shows that the plant is using water faster than it is replenished. You will usually notice this during or after heatwaves.
- Physical damage. This is the easiest type of damage to spot as it can be quite striking. Storms and high winds or fully capable of snapping branches and uprooting entire trees.
- Dieback. The wilting of shoots or the browning of entire plants is a sign that nutrients and moisture are not reaching the leaves, this can be caused by some pests, disease, or fungus but it can be caused just as easily by waterlogged soil following a storm or dry soil following a drought.
When a weather warning is issued many of us begin making preparations to limit any potential damage to our family, home, and car, but few remember to make similar preparations to protect their garden.
Making the time to take a few preventative measures in your garden before an extreme weather event can greatly reduce the damage done to plants, garden structures such as sheds, and your home. Use the tips below to prepare your garden for the next storm.
- Tidy up. Walk around your garden and collect any loose items such as garden tools, children’s toys, furniture, and fallen branches. The wind can blow debris around quite violently and cause damage to walls or break windows, collect and store items or debris out of the wind to remove this unnecessary risk.
- Inspect trees and shrubs. Check the branches and roots of any trees and shrubs in your garden. Any broken branches should be removed and exposed roots should be covered. Doing this helps to protect the plant from additional physical damage caused by branches being torn off. It also reduces the chances of a plant being uprooted.
- Trim top heavy flowering plants. If you have top-heavy plants such as roses in your garden it is advisable to trim them back before the storm arrives, even if it is not yet pruning season. Top heavy flowering plants are at a greater risk of being uprooted as heavy flower heads provide a great deal of wind resistance.
- Pay closer attention to fir trees. Members of the fir tree family are exceptionally vulnerable in the face of high winds due to their dense foliage and height. Inspect the trees and remove any broken or dead branches. Consider reducing the height of the tree if the weather is good enough before the arrival of the storm.
- Keep off the grass. It is best to wait for the weather to improve before walking or working on a lawn following a storm, especially if there was heavy rain. Lawns, after a storm are quite easy to damage. As the waterlogged soil cannot support additional weight, deep ruts in the ground can be formed by simply moving a lightly loaded wheelbarrow across wet grass. In extreme cases, an average adults weight can be enough to leave depressions along their route across the lawn.
Last minute tips
If you were unable to make the above-mentioned preparations due to time constrictions or because the storm is arriving ahead of schedule, don’t mourn the loss of your garden just yet.
Here are five last-minute tips to help protect your garden.
- Place potted plants and hanging baskets in a shed, garage, or conservatory to stop them ending up in your neighbour’s garden.
- Group the larger plant pots together and lay potted trees on their side in an area protected from the wind.
- Clean your roof gutters. Removing any leaves and twigs ensures that rainwater has an unimpeded path to the drain.
- Tie securely vines or climbing plants to their supports with twine or string.
- Stalk younger trees to secure them. Drive a 2×4 deep into the ground (around half a meter or more) and strap it securely to the tree trunk. The twine or string should have a little slack so that the trunk can move in the wind.
So there we have it, your quick guide on how to prepare your garden to survive a hurricane. As long as you remove any items or debris which can be blown by the wind, trim top-heavy plants, and maintain an optimistic outlook, your garden will not only flourish once the storm has passed – it will also be stronger.
Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips for preparing a garden for a hurricane? Let us know in the comments below or give us a shout on social media!