PREPARING YOUR GARDEN FOR
NATURAL DISASTERS

September 14, 2006

By Victoria County Master Gardener,
Charlie Neumeyer
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
PHOTO BY:  CHARLIE NEUMEYER, VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
“A peaceful backyard patio scene like this can turn into turmoil when a storm approaches. Have a plan for lawn furniture, barbecue grills, trash cans, decorative pieces and any other lawn items that can become projectiles in high winds. Suggestions include tying down lawn furniture or moving the items into a covered or protected area.  Part of your disaster plan should include a list of these items and where they will be stored prior to a storm’s approach.”
We’ve all heard the old adage that hindsight is 20/20, and I think we can all agree that generally this is true.   A number of articles and news stories that came out after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were filled with tales of poor planning or no planning at all.  After last season’s near misses in the Victoria area, it is obvious that area gardeners and homeowners need to be proactive, not reactive.  There are several major and minor things we can do to prepare our own disaster plan. With National Preparedness Week being promoted locally by Victoria County Extension, Victoria County Master Gardeners and others during this week (September 10 – 16, 2006), this article will hopefully make you more aware of being prepared.

PREPARE A DISASTER PLAN

First and foremost, be proactive when it comes to planning for natural disasters.  Every household should have a disaster plan in place well before an emergency is declared.  This plan should include the lawn and garden areas as well as the house itself.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency web site (
www.fema.gov) has many practical tips to help get you started. In dealing with the garden area, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) (www.flash.org) site also suggests that homeowners have a plan for lawn furniture, barbecue grills, trash cans, decorative pieces and any other lawn items that can become projectiles in high winds.  The suggestions include tying down lawn furniture or moving the items into a covered or protected area.  Part of your disaster plan should include a list of these items and where they will be stored prior to a storm’s approach.

CHECK YOUR TREES

If you watched the news stories and read the news articles in the aftermath of major storms, much of the damage inflicted was caused by trees or tree limbs falling on houses.  The FEMA web site suggests that homeowners remove all trees that are tall enough to fall on your house if they are knocked over by high winds.  This is a pretty drastic measure for most of us, but if you are just starting with your landscaping, it is a guideline to keep in mind.  Although removing the trees is the only sure way to keep them from causing damage, there is a more moderate approach. If you have large trees overhanging your house, you might want to hire a tree surgeon or arborist to inspect the trees looking for weak or damaged areas.  They can recommend the removal of weak limbs or perhaps do some reduction pruning to lighten the tree’s canopy.  This could help the trees withstand strong winds. According to Mark A. Peterson, Regional Community Forester with the Texas Forest Service, “research by the International Society of Arboriculture and the State of Florida has clearly shown that native species, especially those which have been pruned properly (that is, not topped or stripped out), survive much, much better than exotic species, with the exception of palms.  Of the natives, pines fare much worse than oaks….” The FLASH web site has an animated feature on safe landscaping.  Click on and see for yourself.
http://www.flash.org/activity.cfm?currentPeril=8&activityID=240

INVENTORY YOUR EQUIPMENT


The Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) (www.texashelp.tamu.edu) has several useful suggestions for gardeners.  The EDEN site notes the importance of having an inventory of equipment, with pictures if possible, for insurance purposes.  The inventory should include the type of equipment, the serial number and the purchase price.  This list will be invaluable if it is necessary to replace equipment.  Along the same lines, Joe Janak, the Victoria County Extension Agent, suggests that gardeners inventory all pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers.  This list should include the name of the chemical, the approximate amount on hand, and the environmental hazards associated with the chemical.  In the event of a disaster, it will be extremely beneficial to know the types and effects of any poisons or chemicals that may contaminate your storage area and will help in the clean up of any potentially toxic spills.

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS


Use plant stands with casters or rollers
Another simple thing to do that will save you time and effort is to purchase plant stands with casters or rollers for your large plants.  This will facilitate the movement of your large plants into the garage or protected area. 
Roll plants on a  dolly, wagon or cart
A dolly would also be useful for large potted plants.  A wagon or cart of some sort will be helpful for smaller specimens and will save many treks to and from the storage area.
Build a secured structure to cover plants
If you have large specimens in the yard that you want to save, building a structure to cover the plant is an option that may work.  Just be sure that your structure is tied down securely so that it does not become a projectile itself.
Board up windows in the greenhouse
Finally, for those gardeners who have a greenhouse, follow the guidelines that FEMA suggests for boarding up windows in houses.  Plywood should be purchased ahead of time, measured and cut.  Each piece of wood should be labeled to indicate the widow or area it will protect.  A diagram with the numbering system should be kept with the disaster plan that you have developed.

Although we cannot control the weather, with a little forethought and planning we can prepare ourselves for bad weather when it comes. Just as sure as you are ready to prepare your garden for a natural disaster like a hurricane, there will not be one in our area this year. Let’s hope not…so far, so good! But keep it in tact for when you may need it. Having a well thought out disaster plan on hand will ease some of the stress and anxiety caused by approaching tropical storms or hurricanes.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION go to:
www.fema.gov
www.texashelp.tamu.edu
www.flash.org

*Be Proactive
Prepare an Emergency Plan
Check Trees and Other Plantings
Inventory Equipment and Supplies
Purchase Necessary Materials

*When It Is Time to Act
Have All Materials Needed On Hand
Make Sure All Parts of the Plan Are Completed
Allow Enough Time to Do a Thorough Job

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