Storms bring much desired rain to the garden, but they can also do damage if we don’t take measures to protect our plants. High winds, heavy rain and even hail can wreak devastation on the well tended garden. The entire garden can be swept away when the rain is heavy. Even in a raised bed garden, plants can become displaced and suffer damage from too much water all at once.
Nowadays we can pretty much guess when a storm of great magnitude is headed our way. Modern technology can allow us to see a storm system, the path it will most likely take, and how long it will last. When we know a storm is on the way that will include a heavy downpour, simply building up the soil around each plant is usually enough to keep it from falling over or getting washed away.
Wind and hail protection
Wind and hail can be destructive in the garden. Creating a windbreak will help and is easy if you already have a fence. Simply attach plastic to the fence, punch a few holes in the plastic so it doesn’t blow out and remove it when you believe it is no longer needed.
If you have no fence you still have options. Smaller plants can be protected simply by placing a bucket over them. Place a brick or heavy object on the top of the bucket to prevent it from blowing away. Larger plants might require an inverted garbage can. It’s important to weigh things down. Strong winds can do amazing damage in very little time and a five gallon bucket flying through the air can be a real menace.
Low growing plants can be covered with a tarp as long as the tarp is securely staked in the ground and is not directly resting on the plants.
If you already use row covers, your plants should be protected from wind and hail. The lightweight fabrics used on most row covers might not be strong enough to endure hail, so adding a layer of thick plastic and securing it with bricks or other heavy objects should keep it in place long enough to prevent the plants from getting damaged.
Spring and summer storms are not always severe and precautions need not be taken if you see little risk for garden damage. It is the rain, after all, that makes the garden grow.
If you don’t already have a rain barrel or two, now is an excellent time to install one. It is a simple process and instructions can easily be found. Local soil and water conservation organizations often host workshops or sell the barrels outright.
During a heavy downpour a rain barrel can fill rapidly. To prevent overflow it is wise to have a diverter so excess water flows into another barrel or at least away from the foundation of your house.
You will be glad you have the rainwater when a dry spell occurs. Plants seem to prefer rainwater over municipal water and even well water.
Thunderstorm Plant Damage
Thunderstorms, specifically lightning, are good for plants. The air around us is full of nitrogen, but plants cannot absorb this nitrogen from the air. Lightening and rain put this nitrogen into the soil where plants can absorb it. This is why lawns, gardens and landscapes look so green after a thunderstorm. When there is threat of severe weather, remove container plants to a sheltered location. Performing regular maintenance of trees and shrubs can prevent a lot of storm damage.
If you are in an area of high winds or frequent storms, you should stake small and young trees. There are many different kinds of tree stake kits available. Trees should be staked somewhat loosely so they are allowed to sway in the wind slightly. If they are staked too tightly, wind can cause the tree to snap right in half.
To prevent severe weather damage to plants, like arborvitae or yews, tie up interior branches with pantyhose so they do not flatten or split in the middle under heavy wind and rain. Small plants that tend to flatten in wind and rain, like peonies, can be covered with a 5-gallon bucket or other sturdy container. Just be sure to weigh this container down with brick or a boulder to ensure that it doesn’t fly off in high wind, and remove the container immediately after the threat of severe weather has passed.
After a storm, assess any plant damage so you know how to properly prepare for the next storm. Preparation is the key to preventing thunderstorm plant damage.