Gardening: Preparing your yard for a hurricane

Eileen Ward

It is too late to do a lot of the things suggested to minimize wind damage in your yard. Irma is right around the corner and we can only hope that it turns before it hits us.

The one thing you should still do is peruse your yard for anything that is not tied down. Bird baths, benches and other ornamental items should be brought inside so they do not become missiles.

Several homes in southern Port St. Lucie (near Mariposa Elementary) already have some hurricane shutters up.

Following is the column I wrote after Hurricane Wilma hit Marco Island. The suggestions will be good ones for recovery in your landscape following this hurricane. Also, note how long I mention being at the cleanup effort. Please show compassion and patience for those who are trying to bring Marco Island back to normal. It takes a long time.

I have been at the cleanup effort for 14 days straight and am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. As predicted I found many uprooted plants with a lot of air around the roots. Straightening and watering the soil back in around the roots should allow most of these plants to survive. If you have not yet applied your fall fertilizer now is the time to do it. The lawns will grow new green shoots as you mow off the burned brown tips from the hurricane and the plants will re-foliate faster to offer more protection from the cold weather that is coming in a month or two. Adding some mycorrizal fungus or root stimulating products into the root system will help roots recover faster.

Another problem to watch out for is over watering when the cooler weather arrives. The damaged plants will be growing new roots which will be tender and sensitive to rot if they are in constant moisture. Normally when you transplant shrubs and trees you water daily for a couple of weeks. But with the cooler temperatures the trans-evaporation rates are very low and over watering will allow for that constant moisture and rot in the damaged root systems. Every other day will keep the plants watered sufficiently and after a couple of weeks you should go to twice a week watering in your landscapes.

When the really cold weather of December arrives cut back to once a week. The best way to determine soil moisture is to stick your finger in the soil and feel.

Palm trees are also very susceptible to cold damage and may not show this damage until the new fronds (leaves) emerge six month to a year from now. Try to leave any green fronds even if they have some damage. The green fronds provide photosynthesis which is important to the health of the palm tree and will help in its recovery. You may prune away the dead and severely twisted or broken fronds and apply copper fungicide, being sure to drench the heart with the fungicide. This is where the budding occurs. This fungicide treatment will protect the damaged palm from bacteria which are always present at low levels in healthy palms. But these bacteria can attack weakened palms by killing the bud and eventually the entire palm. When the warmer weather arrives the palms will begin to grow again and hopefully will grow out of any problems caused by cold and hurricane damage.

More:Gardening: Chinch bugs doing their dirty work


Post hurricane debris removal. If you haven’t cleaned your yard of debris yet you better make arrangements quickly. After Wilma Collier County and Marco Island had cut off dates for people to have their debris at the curb. After that you will have to remove the debris to the dump yourself or pay to have it removed. Here’s hoping we all have yards to worry about after the storm passes! Best of luck to all of you in your cleanup efforts and look on the bright side of this, you have an opportunity to freshen your yard with some new landscaping! Call me.

Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at or 239-394-1413.