You can’t control a hurricane, but you can prepare. Here are 9 ways to get your Houston area lawn hurricane-ready.
- Install salt-tolerant landscaping
- Think about native plants
- Tend to your trees and shrubs
- Clean gutters and downspouts
- Remove the rocks
- Don’t forget the fencing
- Plan for drainage
- Mow the lawn
- Have a hurricane preparedness plan
Why hurricane-resistant landscaping is important:
Your home is your castle, and whatever you can do to protect it during a storm is time well spent. Many of these preventive measures can be worked into regular lawn maintenance chores.
For example, it doesn’t take much extra time to bring in lawn furniture, grills, or birdhouses before you mow the lawn ahead of a storm.
As a bonus, many of these measures are low-cost or free if you DIY.
To make things easy, consider this your 9-point checklist for hurricane preparedness for your lawn and home. Let’s get started.
1. Install salt-tolerant landscaping
Along the Gulf Coast, it’s smart to include native plants and trees that withstand salt spray or saline soil. During hurricanes, salt spray from the ocean can travel and cause damage or death to the leaf tissue of your greenery. Many trees and plants will regrow their leaves, but it is good to know which ones are more salt-hardy from the get-go.
Check out this list of salt-tolerant plants from the Native Plant Society of Texas:
- Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) – Large tree
- Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) – Large tree, tolerates some salt in the soil
- Wax myrtle (Morella (Myrica) cerifera) – Small tree/large shrub
- Salt marsh mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica) – Shrub
- Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) – Flowering perennial
- Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) – Flowering perennial
- Frogfruit (Phyla incisa) – Ground cover
- Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) – Grass
- Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – Vine
- Passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) – Vine tolerates some salt in the soil
Cost: The cost of landscaping ranges from $3.50-$15.50 per square foot, including labor and plants. Native plants, because they are low maintenance, will save you money in the long run.
2. Think about native plants
If salt spray resistance isn’t a priority for you, native plants are still worth considering. Native plants have been in an area for thousands of years. Why is this a plus? Native plants are inherently low-maintenance and beneficial to local pollinators. Here are a few other plants that are native to Harris County:
Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana)
This small tree (10-20 ft. tall) provides a multitude of benefits for a home lawn. In addition to the beautiful plums that mature in early fall, this tree puts out a display of white flowers before it puts on its leaves again in the spring.
Mexican plum is drought-tolerant and deciduous (loses leaves in the fall). According to Texas A&M University, this tree is widely available at local nurseries. If you prefer not to eat the fruit, don’t worry: The local wildlife will clean it up for you.
Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
Considered a small evergreen tree or large shrub, the yaupon holly puts out marvelous red berries throughout the winter. It can grow from 12-25 feet tall and 8-12 feet wide. If you want berries, be sure to plant both male and female plants.
Elephant’s foot (Elephantopus carolinianus)
If you have a shady lawn with sandy soil, Elephant’s foot may be the plant for you. Elephant’s foot is a perennial that functions well as a ground cover in full or partial shade. It can also work in pots.
Elephant’s foot puts out beautiful fall colors in the way of small, light purple flowers from August to September. An added selling point: Elephant’s foot is also drought tolerant.
Cost: The cost of landscaping ranges from $3.50-$15.50 per square foot, including labor and plants. Native plants may cost a bit more, but they will pay off over the years in less watering and fertilizing.
3. Tend to your trees and shrubs
One of the key tenets of hurricane preparedness is to minimize projectiles on the lawn. One way to do this is to remember the three Ds: dead, dying, or damaged.
If any of your trees, shrubs, or limbs are dead, dying, or damaged, plan to take care of those in the spring. Larger jobs may require an arborist, but smaller jobs are easy weekend DIY projects.
As you prune, think about wind flow as well. You want to be sure your shrubs and ornamentals aren’t too dense. If a gust of wind comes, you want the air to have enough room to flow through the plant. If the plant is too dense, the wind may pull the plant entirely, root system and all.
If you have a tree company come to work on your lawn, ask them if any of your trees or shrubs need to be staked. If so, have them do that while they’re there.
Finally, make sure none of your trees or shrubs are near power lines.
Cost: If you have a landscaper trim your shrubs, you’ll pay from $39-$71 per person per hour for labor. If you have an arborist trim your trees, the typical range to trim one tree is $284-$770. Expect to pay from $77-$93 per tree on the low end or $1,140 – $1,394 per tree on the high end.
4. Clean gutters and downspouts
This isn’t a landscaping chore, but it does have to do with water flow in your landscape. While you’re checking off your spring lawn care to-do list, have someone clean your gutters. When June rolls around, that’s one less thing to worry about.
Cost: You’ll spend from $108-$220 on average to have your gutters cleaned.
5. Remove the rocks
Even though rocks are a helpful tool in your low-maintenance landscaping toolbox, they can become dangerous in high wind situations. If your Houston neighborhood is prone to hurricanes, consider softer alternatives such as ground cover or mulch to cover flower beds, xeriscaped areas, or beneath trees.
Cost: Expect to pay from $39-$71 per person per hour for labor. If they haul away the rocks, you may pay a disposal fee as well.
6. Don’t forget the fencing
As we’ve already mentioned, wind flow during a hurricane is important. Chain-link fencing, picket fencing, rail fencing, or any other fencing with openings withstands wind gusts better than solid fencing.
With open fencing, wind can pass through the open spaces and is less likely to topple the fence. With a solid fence, the fence acts like a sail in the hurricane-force winds and doesn’t stand a chance.
If your fence is not built to withstand heavy winds, is old, or is a solid fence, ask a local contractor what you can do to reinforce it before hurricane season. Homeowners can add brackets to secure the posts to the fence panels or reinforce the posts with concrete. A local contractor may have other suggestions or best practices that work for your area.
If you haven’t already installed a fence, ask your builder about the latest building codes or products that can help your fence (solid or open) to be more wind-resistant in inclement weather.
Other tips to protect your fencing ahead of hurricane season:
Have your trees trimmed
Prevent damage to your fence and roof by removing branches that are dead, diseased, or dying.
Check your fence posts
Make sure your fence posts aren’t wobbly. If they are, contact your local contractor to shore up your fence before hurricane season begins.
Don’t forget the gate
Experts are divided on this one: Some say to close the gate while others say to remove it and store it in the garage or shed.
Cost: The typical pricing range for new fencing is from $1,197 – $6,105.
7. Plan for drainage
Stormwater management is a major concern for residential developers, cities, and homeowners in hurricane-prone areas. There are things you can do to absorb more water in your lawn, which puts less stress on city infrastructure.
Here are a few things to consider if you live in Houston:
- Get drainage issues on your property addressed ASAP (for example, basement flooding).
- Consider a material other than concrete for that patio or driveway you are planning to install. Here’s why: Concrete alternative such as pavers, porous asphalt or concrete, or plastic grid systems allow water to flow in between or through the materials so that less gets deposited into storm drains.
- Install a rain garden in areas of your lawn where water naturally pools in small depressions in your lawn or areas where water naturally collects. Rain gardens collect small amounts of water from driveways, sidewalks, or roofs, decreasing runoff in your lawn.
- Bioswales help contain larger amounts of water. A bioswale (or swale) is a long ditch that helps direct water to a larger drain, absorbing and filtering some of that water in the process.
These are just a few of the rainfall management methods. Call a local stormwater management specialist to explore ideas for your lawn.
Cost: The average pricing range for drainage installation is $1,709-$5,881.
8. Mow the lawn
You’re probably thinking, “really?” Mowing the lawn is the last thing on your mind when a hurricane is headed your way. But, if a hurricane or tropical storm is imminent, you’ve probably known about it for at least a week.
So, from June 1 – Nov. 30, be sure to do your regular mowing (or hire a professional) and this won’t be a last-minute concern. Whether you’re high-tailing it out of town or hunkering down, your grass will be trimmed and better able to weather the roaring wind and pounding rain.
Cost: Hire a pro to mow your lawn typically costs on average $26-$72 per mow.
9. Have a hurricane preparedness plan
When the weather report warns that a hurricane is headed your way, have a plan to get your house and landscape in order. A pre-hurricane landscaping checklist might look something like this:
- Mow the lawn or hire a pro
- Remove yard debris (fallen sticks, limbs, and other material)
- Clear storm drains
- Turn off your outside power
- Remove all lawn ornaments and features:
- Garden tools
- Above-ground sprinklers
- Gnomes and other lawn ornaments
- Plant stands
- Freestanding water fountains
- Wind chimes
- Garbage cans
- Potted plants
- Outdoor furniture and benches
- Dog house
- Turn trampolines upside down
If you don’t have room to store larger items, either lay them flat on the ground or tie them together with bungee cords or rope.
- Turn off your outdoor lights and sprinkler system.
- If you have a garden, harvest ripe produce and secure raised beds with sandbags.
Cost: It will cost you $0 to clean up around the lawn. It just takes some time.
Plan Ahead Before a Hurricane Hits Houston
For H-towners, hurricane preparedness is a year-round endeavor. Keeping up with lawn maintenance and landscaping chores as each season passes is the best way to avoid added stress from June through November.
Thankfully, today we have advance warning so Texans don’t get hit unawares as they did with the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Keep these tips in mind:
- Start small: Hire someone to clean your gutters or remove gravel or small stones from your landscaping beds.
- If you’re a DIY-er, grab a few friends and get the lawn chores done. Repay their kindness by having a pre-hurricane season yard cleanup at their place next weekend.
If hurricane season prep is too much for your to-do list, hire a local Houston lawn care pro to shore up your lawn for the hurricane season ahead.