When the next Ivan, Dennis, or Sally blows through the Gulf Coast, you want to be prepared. Just like you board up your windows and block your doors with sandbags to protect your home during hurricanes, there are measures you can take for your landscape to minimize damage.
If you think ahead and design your landscape to be hurricane-resistant, you can lower the chances of severe harm to your home. Some landscape features will even protect your home from flooding or hurricane-force winds. These hurricane-resistant landscaping ideas for Pensacola will set your home on the path of most resistance (to damage, that is).
- 1. Choose wind-resistant trees
- 2. Plan your tree placement
- 3. Keep trees and bushes neat and healthy
- 4. Find salt-tolerant landscape plants
- 5. Install sturdy fencing
- 6. Build a retaining wall
- 7. Anchor your hardscapes
- 8. Use only soft mulch materials
- 9. Keep storm drains clean and clear
- Don’t wait ’til it’s too late: Hurricane-proof your Pensacola yard now
1. Choose wind-resistant trees
One of the scariest things that can happen during a hurricane or tropical storm is having a tree fall through the roof of your home. Luckily, some types of trees are less likely to fall, snap in half, or lose branches as a result of strong winds.
Wind-resistant trees have a deep root system that anchors them into the ground, along with a sturdy trunk and branches. Consider replacing old, unhealthy, or flimsy trees in your landscape with one of these wind-resistant trees native to the Florida Panhandle:
- Dogwood (Cornus florida)
- Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine)
- Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
- Sand live oak (Quercus geminata)
- Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum)
- Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
- Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)
Cost: Planting a small tree or sapling usually costs about $150-$300, while transplanting a large, mature tree can cost as much as $3,000 because of the machinery and labor involved.
2. Plan your tree placement
In addition to the type of trees in your yard, where you plant them is an important aspect of a hurricane-resistant landscape. Depending on where you plant a tree, it could be a safety risk or a means of protection during a storm.
DON’T plant trees close to your home or power lines. If tree branches hang over your home, they could easily fall and damage your roof in high winds. Likewise, a tree that falls on a power line could pose serious danger to you and your family.
DO plant several trees close together in a group. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, trees in groups of five or more are less likely to fall during a hurricane than single trees on their own. Plus, a solid row of trees can act as a windbreak to shield your home from severe wind and flying debris.
Pro Tip: Even when planting in a group, make sure each tree has plenty of space to grow its roots. The same study from UF found that trees with more root space tend to be more wind-resistant.
Cost: The price of planting a new tree will be about the same no matter where you plant it, and planting multiple trees at once instead of one at a time can actually save you money. For example, planting five small trees costs about $300-$700, which comes out to $60-$140 per tree (as opposed to the $150-$300 for planting a single small tree on its own).
3. Keep trees and bushes neat and healthy
Once you’ve selected the right trees and placed them in the optimal spot to protect your home from hurricane damage, it’s important that you prune and trim the branches regularly.
You also should work to keep your trees and bushes disease-free. Follow this checklist to prevent plant diseases such as rot or fungus:
- Apply preventive fungicides to your trees and bushes.
- Make sure the soil around your plants drains well so they don’t sit in standing water.
- Dispose of fallen leaves in your yard with raking or mulching at least once a week in fall.
- Inspect plants regularly and remove infected twigs and branches at the first sign of disease.
We know it’s no revolutionary landscaping idea to say “your plants should be healthy,” but keeping up with tree and bush maintenance year-round (not just during hurricane season) can go a long way in preventing damage.
If you neglect regular pruning and trimming, you’ll have a landscape full of overgrown, unhealthy, and weak branches. Those branches are far more likely than healthy branches to snap and fly off in high winds. Trees and bushes suffering from plant diseases also are more likely to fall or snap during hurricanes.
Cost: With the proper trimming and pruning tools, you can maintain your own trees and bushes for free. If you don’t have the time, you can hire a professional tree service to trim your trees and bushes for an average cost of $6-$15 per bush or $300-$700 per large tree.
4. Find salt-tolerant landscape plants
Hurricane-force winds churn up the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Bay, throwing salt spray at homes anywhere near the water. Too much of this salt can dry out plants and negatively affect their ability to absorb water and nutrients. If you want your landscape to survive this inevitable inundation of saltwater, you must choose salt-tolerant plants.
There are many salt-tolerant native Pensacola plants you can include in your landscape, such as:
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- Southern wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
- Lanceleaf blanket flower (Gaillardia aestivalis)
- Beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis)
- Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia)
- Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
Cost: Different types of plants vary widely in price, but expect to spend about $25-$50 for a new shrub, $150-$300 for a new small tree, up to $3,000 for a new large tree, and anywhere from $300-$1,000 to install a new flower bed.
5. Install sturdy fencing
During hurricanes, heavy winds often knock over fences. That means expensive repairs and fence panels flying around that might strike your window or vehicle. To avoid this, choose a type of fence that isn’t easily destroyed or swept away.
- Wooden fences: Wood fence posts have a tendency to rot underground, which makes them easier to topple. Plus, heavy debris can easily crush wood.
- Solid privacy fences: Solid fence panels don’t provide gaps for wind to pass through, so heavy winds are more likely to knock them over or carry them away.
- Metal, vinyl, or stone fencing: These materials won’t rot, and they’re stronger than wood, so they’ll hold up better when faced with flying debris.
- Chain-link or slatted fencing: Chain-link fences or fences with spaced-out slats may not provide much privacy, but they’re more wind-resistant than solid fences because strong winds pass straight through them. For more privacy, you can add a fabric screen to your chain-link fence.
Cost: An aluminum or iron fence usually costs about $30-$60 per foot, a vinyl fence usually costs about $20-$40 per foot, and a chain-link fence is your most affordable wind-resistant option at about $10-$30 per foot.
6. Build a retaining wall
A retaining wall is a short wall used to hold back (or “retain”) the soil behind it, adding a second (or third or fourth, etc.) level to a landscape. A retaining wall in front of your home can prevent flooding from reaching your doorstep during a hurricane.
Retaining walls are usually made of some sort of stone or concrete, which makes them durable and able to stay wet for long periods of time without rotting.
Cost: Having a retaining wall installed on your property typically costs around $20-$50 per square foot of material for materials and labor. The exact cost depends on the material used to build the wall.
7. Anchor your hardscapes
A “hardscape” is anything in your landscape that isn’t a plant. Hardscapes include things like pergolas, arbors, water fountains, birdbaths, statues, or garden benches that might fly off during a hurricane. More permanent structures such as patios, decks, paver pathways, and fences are also considered hardscapes.
The most important thing for a hardscape in a hurricane is that it doesn’t blow away. If you don’t want to lose your landscape features or have them crash into your home when severe winds blow, here’s what to do:
- Choose hardscapes made of sturdy, heavy materials that are more difficult for the wind to blow away. Most types of hardscapes are available in stone or metal.
- Anchor hardscapes into the ground with concrete to improve their wind resistance. Even a landscape feature made of wood or vinyl is less likely to blow away when anchored.
Cost: Each type of hardscape has a different price range, but it’s safe to say that no matter what kind of landscape feature you want to install, you’ll pay more for stone or metal than you would for wood or vinyl. If you want to anchor your hardscapes yourself, you can get a 50-pound bag of concrete mix at the hardware store for about $5-$10.
8. Use only soft mulch materials
Types of mulch range from hard materials such as gravel, crushed stone, and landscape glass to softer materials such as shredded bark and rubber nuggets. In 100-mile-per-hour winds, those little bits of rock or glass will fly around like bullets, leaving cracked windows, dinged cars, or worse in their wake. Softer mulch materials are always a better choice for hurricane-prone areas like Pensacola.
Cost: Shredded bark mulch costs about $3 for 2 cubic feet at the hardware store, and rubber mulch costs about $7-$10 for 0.8 cubic feet.
9. Keep storm drains clean and clear
If you don’t want your whole yard to flood in the torrential rain of a hurricane, design your landscape so that stormwater can flow freely in the direction of the nearest storm drain. Don’t plant thick vegetation or put up a fence that blocks the path from your home to the drain, for example.
Keeping the path to the storm drain clear also includes regular yard cleanup. The leaves, twigs, and other debris in your yard can clog the drain and cause flooding if you don’t dispose of them properly.
Cost: You can rake up leaves and twigs in your yard on your own for free or hire a professional to clean up your yard for about $200-$1,000, depending on the size of your yard and its condition.
Don’t wait ’til it’s too late: Hurricane-proof your Pensacola yard now
By the time The Weather Channel shows a hurricane (and Jim Cantore) headed your way, you won’t have any time to prepare your landscape. Act now, during calm weather, to prevent damage later.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a 100% hurricane-proof yard. Mother Nature can plow through even the best-laid plans. But hurricane-resistant landscaping ideas like the ones on this list will reduce the odds of your home and landscape suffering severe damage.
Need someone to clean up and haul away debris after a storm? Or maybe you don’t want to spend any time working in the yard all year long? Check out the services offered by Lawn Love’s Pensacola lawn care pros.