You don’t have to be at the whims of hurricane season to prepare for the next Ida. Being proactive to protect your Baton Rouge home from a hurricane can minimize damage and give you peace of mind.
When a storm rolls in, there’s more to do than stocking up on supplies and sandbags. Incorporating these 9 hurricane-resistant landscaping ideas will make your Louisiana property more resilient to wind and water damage. That way, you can minimize post-storm cleanup and lend a helping hand to your nextdoor neighbor.
- 1. Plant wind-resistant trees
- 2. Plan tree placement
- 3. Choose salt-tolerant plants
- 4. Keep plants pruned and trimmed
- 5. Assess drainage
- 6. Secure fencing
- 7. Use soft mulch
- 8. Add a retaining wall
- 9. Remove and secure storm hazards
- Why hurricane safety matters in Baton Rouge
- Hire a Baton Rouge lawn pro
1. Plant wind-resistant trees
Outside of flooding, a falling tree poses the biggest threat to you and your property’s safety. However sturdy a tree seems, a wind speed of 150 mph (witnessed during Hurricane Ida in 2021) can pluck it out of the soil like a weed.
Does that mean you need to clear all the trees from your yard? No. From providing shade to acting as nesting sites to reducing stormwater runoff, trees are essential to a healthy ecosystem. Being smart about which trees you plant and how to plant them can reduce the risk that they’ll fail in a hurricane.
What makes a tree species wind-resistant? Look for these characteristics:
- Deep, radial roots
- Low center of gravity
- Small, deciduous leaves with a fine texture
Here are a few wind-resistant trees recommended by Louisiana State University:
- Bald cypress
- Live oak
- Sabal palm
- Windmill palm
- Iron wood
- Shumard oak
- Winged elm
Trees to avoid:
- Red cedars
- Ornamental pears
- Silver maples
- Box elders
- Water oaks
Cost: Trees range from as little as $20 to over $3,000, depending on the size. Stick to smaller trees or saplings if you’re on a budget.
2. Plan tree placement
You’ve picked out your wind-resistant trees, but now you need to decide where to plant them. The first step is ruling out areas close to your house or power lines. If you really want to plant a tree near a power line, choose a small tree like a dogwood, crepe myrtle, or wax myrtle.
Make sure your planting site has at least 3 feet of soil depth (be careful planting near a sidewalk) and a deep water table. To determine the distance to the water table, follow these steps before planting any large tree:
- Dig a few holes 2-3 feet deep.
- Wait up to 4 hours for water to appear. If no water appears, you’re free to plant a large tree.
- If water appears, measure the distance between the surface of the water and the surface of the soil. If it’s less than 18 inches, choose a small tree. If it’s more than 18 inches, choose a small or medium-sized tree.
Soil compaction also affects a tree’s ability to withstand severe weather. Make sure to aerate your lawn every year to break up soil and create a healthier environment for new plants.
Our final piece of advice for tree placement is to group them to buffer high winds. A study from the University of Florida showed that simply planting trees in groups can increase their chances of surviving a storm by 10%.
Cost: Choosing a site for a new tree is free. Transplanting an existing tree costs between $150 and $880 per tree.
3. Choose salt-tolerant plants
Ever heard of cars miles from the coast rusting after a hurricane? Salt spray in normal weather can corrode metal as far as 10 miles inland, and a hurricane expands that radius even more. Plants are much more sensitive than a metal building, and the ones in your Baton Rouge backyard are at risk for salt damage following a tropical storm.
An influx of salt dries out plants, stops roots from absorbing water, and prevents proper nutrient absorption. In short, it can spell death for your beloved garden bed.
When you’re looking to refresh your garden, consider installing some salt-tolerant plants that can survive a heavy shake.
Salt-tolerant plants for Louisiana
These plants are both salt-tolerant and native. Native plants are extra resilient because they have adapted to coastal environments.
- Wax myrtle
- Southern bayberry
- Gulf bluestem
- Coastal dropseed
- Salt meadow cordgrass
- St. Augustinegrass
- Trumpet creeper
- Virginia creeper
- Coral honeysuckle
- Camphor daisy
- Seaside goldenrod
- Beach morning glory
- Blazing star
- Swamp rose
- Rose mallow
Cost: Professional flower bed installation costs $500 to $2,500.
4. Keep plants pruned and trimmed
Choosing plants is the first step, but taking care of them is just as important. When’s the last time you got out a pair of shears and trimmed your hedges? Weak branches are perfect targets for strong winds, and the last thing you want is a stray branch busting out your car window.
In general, healthy plants are much more likely to survive a hurricane, and proper pruning will keep them in good shape. When you’re done, clear away any debris to maintain airflow and prevent disease.
Remember that hurricane prevention is year-round when it comes to plant care. Regularly inspect for signs of disease or poor health like discoloration, dead foliage, and insects. Monitor trees especially — hidden damage can result in a weaker tree.
Cost: If you have the right tools for pruning and trimming, you can maintain your shrubs and trees at no cost. Professional trimming services cost between $6-15 per bush and $300-$700 per large tree.
5. Assess drainage
It’s not just high winds you have to worry about with a hurricane. Constant heavy rains can cause serious damage to your home and yard. Assessing your drainage systems is essential to avoiding stormwater damage.
You want to make sure water can flow freely toward the nearest storm drain. That means keeping the path clear of vegetation, fencing, and hardscaping — like gazebos or fire pits — that could be an obstacle.
If your yard has poor grading, you might need to take extra measures:
- A rain garden is a group of plants installed in a low slope that help absorb water into the soil (and filter it for free).
- French drains are gravel-filled trenches that carry water to an exit point.
- A dry well is a deep hole filled with rocks that acts as a termination point for under downspouts or at the end of French drains.
Finally, take care of your gutters and downspouts. They have an important job — keeping your roof, foundation, and siding safe from water damage after heavy rain — but they can’t do it if they’re clogged with debris. They should be cleaned twice a year, preferable in the fall and spring.
Cost: Professional French drain installation costs between $1,000 to $4,500, depending on size and how close it is to the surface. Gutter cleaning ranges from $118 to $224, more if you have multiple stories to your home.
6. Secure fencing
When you’re thinking about any kind of hurricane-resistant landscaping, start with reducing potential wind damage. A fence with openings, like a slatted fence or chain-link fence, lets wind pass through without creating resistance.
Solid fencing, on the other hand, doesn’t allow wind to move through, creating a strong force of impact and high likelihood of damage. If you choose to keep your solid fence, reinforce the posts on fence panels with brackets. You also can remove a single panel of the fencing on either end to let pockets of wind through.
Materials matter too. Metal fences are much more durable than wood fences. Steel and wrought iron can take a beating, whereas wood easily collapses under a heavy branch or tree. Vinyl is another option for salt-resistant, waterproof fencing, but it’s less resilient than metal.
Pro Tip: If you’re installing a new fence, consider hiring someone who specializes in hurricane-resistant fencing. They’ll design the best solution for you that doesn’t compromise on safety, privacy, or beauty.
Cost: A Baton Rouge homeowner can expect to spend between $7 and $50 per linear foot on fencing. Chain-link fencing (also known as cyclone fences) run between $5 and $35 per linear foot.
7. Use soft mulch
Mulch helps plants stay healthy, but the wrong kind can do damage in a hurricane. Trade out any hard mulches like river rock, pea gravel, and landscape glass. Strong hurricane winds will hurl these toward targets like your car, windows, and siding.
Instead, use soft mulches like wood chips, shredded leaves, pine needles, rubber nuggets, and shredded bark. They may still cause a few scrapes, but the damage will be minimal by comparison.
Cost: You can purchase shredded bark mulch for $3 per 2 cubic feet, or use materials you already have (like newspaper and grass clippings) for free.
8. Add a retaining wall
A retaining wall is a short wall that holds the soil behind it in place. In the event of flooding during a hurricane, it can stop water from reaching your home’s foundation. Often made out of stone or concrete, retaining walls can stay wet for a long time without sustaining damage.
In addition to stopping the flow of water, they help prevent erosion on your landscape year-round. If you have a slope in your yard, add a retaining wall to break up the gradient and slow down water, letting water soak into the ground instead of running over the surface and carrying particles with it.
Cost: Depending on the material, retaining walls cost anywhere from $20 to $50 per square foot.
9. Remove and secure storm hazards
Seemingly harmless decorations can become weapons in a hurricane. Many of the finishing touches to your landscape need to be stored somewhere safe before a hurricane arrives. Outdoor dining china, garden benches, toys, and bicycles should be moved to a secure location if there’s a storm on its way.
If you have a structure you can’t bring inside but is still moveable – like a trellis or playground equipment – turn it on its side. Group them together to reduce the chances of them rolling away. For other structures like sheds, strap them to the ground using eyebolts and concrete footing.
Cost: You can do this yourself for free, or hire a professional for between $150 and $400.
Why hurricane safety matters in Baton Rouge
Nothing comes without a cost, and the cost of the rich cultural traditions and lively community we enjoy in Baton Rouge is the all-too-present threat of hurricanes. From Hurricane Katrina’s unforgettable rampage to Hurricane Ida’s near miss of Baton Rouge in 2021, we’re no strangers to power outages and the chaos of storm season.
Last year, local restaurants, hotels, and farmers stepped in to provide any relief they could for people displaced by Hurricane Ida. Don’t wait until it’s too late — take steps now to protect your landscape so you can rest easier when the rain comes.
Hire a Baton Rouge lawn pro
Hurricane safety is no joke. You might rest easier knowing it’s in a professional’s hands. Hire a Lawn Love team to take care of any installation needs, yard cleanup, and regular maintenance to keep your yard in tip-top shape.
Main Photo Credit: ykaiavu | Pixabay