Even with King Neptune’s watchful eye and trident standing guard over the Atlantic Ocean shoreline, you’ll still need to prepare your landscape for hurricane season. Check out these tips to make sure your lawn is hurricane-ready.
- Hire an expert
- Plant native
- Install salt-resistant landscaping
- Get rid of rocks
- Prune and plant thoughtfully
- Check your drainage
- Install secure fencing
- Anchor the outbuildings
- Help a neighbor
Why hurricane-resistant landscaping is important:
Hurricanes are not under our control, but there are a few things we can do to reduce the risk of damage to our homes. After you’ve got your emergency food and supply kits ready, take a look outside at your landscaping.
You want to ensure that you reduce the risk of wind and water damage and install plants that are storm-hardy. Read over these tips to see if there are improvements you can make to your landscape before this hurricane season.
1. Hire an expert
When your largest investment is at stake, sometimes it’s a good idea to get help from an expert. Not only can they help you choose plants that are known to withstand inclement weather, they can help create an entire landscape and bring your outdoor vision to life. With expert help, you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor living space most of the year and feel that it will have the best chance of survival when storms strike.
Cost: Hiring a landscape designer costs an average of $3,298.
2. Plant native
Designing a landscape with native plants can be overwhelming (see Tip #1), but if you’d like to give it a go on your own, here are a few plants to consider.
First, what is a native plant? A native plant in the U.S. is usually defined as a plant that has been in your local area since before European settlers arrived.
Native plants have many advantages for homeowners. Here are a few:
- Inherently low-maintenance
- Preferred by local wildlife (food, shelter, a place to lay eggs)
- Low or no need to use pesticides
- Helps maintain a thriving local ecosystem
Here are a few native species to consider:
- Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
- Flowering perennial
This plant thrives in full sun or partial shade and is one of the Monarch butterfly’s favorite host plants. Common milkweed puts out light pink or purple flowers from May through July. Take note: This plant will spread vigorously in your lawn.
- Maryland golden-aster (Chrysopsis mariana)
- Flowering perennial
If you want a pop of yellow from late summer to early October, consider Maryland golden-aster. This late-season bloomer prefers moist or wet soil, and its flowers grow from 1-1.5 feet tall when in bloom.
- Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)
- Ground cover
If you’re interested in ground cover, consider thimbleweed. This plant will thrive in full sun, partial sun, or full shade and puts out white flowers from May through July. Also called tall anemone, this plant is poisonous if eaten in large quantities and will cause skin irritation.
- Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Known for its outstanding fall color, red chokeberry is a 6-10 foot tall shrub that thrives in full sun or partial shade. It puts out small white or pink flowers in April that will attract pollinators to your yard. After the flowers die back, red berries form and last into December. The red berries, along with rich red leaves, provide quite a show in the fall.
Cost: Plan to pay from $3.50-$15.50 per square foot for a landscaper to install native plants in your lawn. This price includes labor and materials.
3. Install salt-resistant landscaping
Salt-resistant native plants can handle some salt and are often found in nature along salt or brackish marshes and coastal areas. Below is a list of a few salt-tolerant native plants:
- Seashore or Salt marsh mallow (Kosteletzykya pentacarpos)
This flowering perennial can be found in the wild along coastal plains, swamps, and brackish marshes. It prefers moist, sandy soil and is somewhat tolerant of salt. It produces pink (sometimes white) flowers from June through October. The salt marsh mallow is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.
- High-tide bush (Baccharis halimifolia)
You may know this shrub by the name groundsel tree. This 6-12 foot flowering shrub puts out white flowers from August through September. High-tide bush, per its name, is found in nature along shorelines and salt marshes. This shrub is prized by small birds and pollinators. Warning: According to North Carolina State University, this plant is poisonous if ingested.
- Bottlebrush (Carex comosa)
Also known as bristly sedge, this salt-tolerant grass prefers full sun and is found naturally in marshes, ditches, and swamps. This grass makes a great plant to include in a rain garden and gets from 1-3 feet tall.
Cost: If you do the work yourself, your only cost is the price of the plant. To hire someone to landscape an area with native plants, plan to pay from $3.50-$15.50 per square foot, which includes labor and materials.
4. Get rid of rocks
Small rocks are a great low-maintenance landscaping tool. They are extremely popular in xeriscaping and desert home landscape design. Unfortunately, in a hurricane-prone area, these low-maintenance lawn fixtures can become airborne and turn into powerful projectiles.
In place of rocks in a low-maintenance landscape, consider a softer replacement like mulch or ground cover. Mulch and ground cover are not going to become harmful projectiles, and the benefit to your lawn is similar. Like rocks, mulch and living ground covers will cover the soil to retain moisture, reduce weed pressure, reduce mowable space, and provide a pleasing aesthetic.
Cost: Landscaping labor runs from $23-$55 per person per hour for general landscaping work. If they haul away debris or rocks, expect to pay a disposal fee as well.
5. Prune and plant thoughtfully
Keeping track of your trees is an important part of homeownership when you live along the coast. Trees can cause damage to cars, homes, fences, or power lines, to name a few. As part of a complete hurricane prevention plan, you may need to have an arbor company trim your trees before hurricane season or whenever you see dead, dying, or damaged limbs. It is a small price to pay to prevent power outages or damage to your home.
While you’re at it, look at your shrubs. As with your trees, prune the three D’s: dead, dying, or diseased branches. In addition, you may need to prune interior branches to ensure that the wind can pass through them instead of toppling them over.
If you’re thinking of adding wind-resistant trees to your lawn, here are a few species that the University of Florida recommends:
- Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) – Native tree
If you have a lot of space and want to add a focal point to your lawn, this is one to consider. Live oak (aka southern live oak) can grow from 40-80 feet tall and 60-100 feet wide. It is very important to have it pruned when it is young so it will remain structurally sound throughout its long life.
- Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) – Native tree
Baldcypress (also spelled bald cypress) is another tall, sturdy tree, growing from 50-70 feet tall. The moniker “bald” refers to the fact that it loses its needles (deciduous), which is uncommon among conifers.
- Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
Even though this is not a native species, it is a popular small tree throughout the Southeastern U.S. Virginians prize it for its long blooming season and gorgeous, showy blooms. There are many different colors and varieties to choose from. Consider visiting a local Virginia Beach garden center to check out the varieties they have in stock.
Cost: If you need to have a single tree trimmed by a tree company, expect to pay between $284-$770. On the low end, you may pay as little as $77-$93 per tree. On the high end, it could be as much as $1,140-$1,394 per tree. Shrub trimming will cost from $43-$87 per hour. Check with your landscaping company to see if their price includes hauling away the debris.
If you want to add trees to your landscape, you’ll only pay the cost of the tree and a few bags of dirt, perhaps. If you want someone else to install the tree, plan to pay a landscaping company from $23-$55 per person per hour.
6. Check your drainage
City storm drains can only deal with so much water at a time. As a Virginia Beach homeowner, you can help alleviate some of the stress on local stormwater drains. The more water your landscape absorbs, the less flooding and stress on local storm drains.
Consider these tips to help your lawn absorb or direct water in your landscape:
- Fix drainage problems
If you notice you have issues with basement flooding or erosion, get those fixed ASAP.
- Install a rain garden
Rain gardens clean water as it drains and prevent erosion and runoff. These are often placed to catch heavy rain flows from gutter downspouts.
- Consider alternatives to concrete
Consider pavers, plastic grid systems, or porous pavement. These are popular alternatives to concrete or asphalt for home patios or driveways. These alternatives allow water to run between or through the materials and reduce the amount of water that goes into a storm drain.
- Clean up your storm drains.
Make sure drains in your street are free from sediment and debris. The city’s Department of Public Works even has an Adopt-A-Drain program where you can take responsibility for keeping a local drain clean. Debris in your storm drains flows directly to the Chesapeake bay, local rivers, and the ocean. Do your part to keep local waterways clean and safe for people and wildlife.
Cost: Varies widely, depending on what project you undertake.
7. Install secure fencing
When you think about your fence, don’t just check to make sure your posts aren’t wobbly and your fencing panels are in good condition. That is important to do, but there’s more to it.
Part of outdoor hurricane preparedness includes reducing potential wind damage on your property. Fences with openings or holes, such as rail fences and chain link fences, allow wind gusts to pass through with little resistance. If you have solid fencing, the wind doesn’t have a way to pass through and your fence is more likely to sustain damage.
There are things you can do to reinforce solid fencing. You can buy brackets to secure the posts to the fence panels, and reinforcing the posts with concrete may help. Some experts recommend taking down a single panel of fencing on opposite sides to allow the wind to travel through. If you’re installing a new fence, some areas have updated building codes to help new fences to withstand high winds.
Ask a local contractor for expert advice if you have wobbly fence posts or older fencing that needs to be stabilized or replaced before the next hurricane season.
Cost: New fencing costs between $1,197-$6,105.
8. Anchor the outbuildings
If you have an outdoor storage shed, you’ll want to make sure it is anchored to the ground. Many outdoor sheds sit on a wood frame directly on the ground or on concrete blocks. Such a building can be lifted off its foundation and batted around during a hurricane.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix. You can buy storage shed anchor kits from local home improvement stores.
The kits vary, but most use an in-ground anchor along with a steel wire. Simply attach the steel wire to the anchor, pull it up and over the structural braces, and attach it to the in-ground anchor on the other side. Other kits anchor the wire to a bracket on the skid along the bottom.
It’s a pretty simple concept that can help prevent tropical storms or hurricanes from blowing away your outdoor structures.
Remember to call 811 before you dig.
Cost: You can buy a shed anchor kit from your local home improvement store for $25-$50.
9. Help a neighbor
When you’re preparing for a hurricane, consider your neighbor’s landscape as well as your own. Here are a few ideas:
- You may try organizing a neighborhood hurricane preparedness group in the off-season. The group could have a storage place for supplies or just be ready to help neighbors board up windows when the time comes.
- Another way to prepare is by offering help to elderly or infirm neighbors who may have trouble picking up around their lawn.
Your neighbor’s landscape can do just as much damage to your property as your own. Flying objects don’t respect lot lines, so do yourself a favor and help others as you have the opportunity.
From hurricanes to the coronavirus, the City of Virginia Beach’s Office of Emergency Management is a go-to resource when emergencies hit.
Check out their hurricane page for information on how to prepare.
If you’re busy packing an emergency bag or planning a summer vacation, leave the sea to King Neptune, and leave your lawn to one of our Virginia Beach lawn care professionals.
Main Photo Credit: ToriBehr | Flickr | CC BY 2.0