Whether it’s a trip to the beach or a sunny stroll to the Delaware Art museum, it’s easy to enjoy Delaware weather. However, a temperate climate doesn’t mean Wilmington’s unaffected by storms. Our guide to hurricane-resistant landscaping will ensure you and your landscape remain strong through a storm.
1. Choose wind-resistant trees
One of the scariest sounds you can hear during a hurricane is a tree snapping. While a beautiful tree is a beloved addition to a backyard, they can be damaging or deadly under high winds. The solution is to choose wind-resistant trees.
What makes a tree resistant to wind? A deep root system can prevent a tree from toppling over. Slow-growing trees with low centers of gravity are also good choices. Finally, native trees are generally more resilient during a storm.
Here are a few wind-tolerant trees that are also recommended by the University of Delaware:
- Bald cypress
- Iron wood
- Shumard oak
- Winged elm
- Southern magnolia
- American beech
Trees to avoid:
- Red cedars
- Ornamental pears
- Box elders
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. Place your trees wisely
Now that you’ve chosen your tree species, you need to decide where to put them. If you have a large yard, it might be overwhelming trying to pick a spot. Location can play a large role in the chances of a tree surviving a storm, so keep these tips in mind.
You’ll want to look for a place that can house multiple trees. Groups of trees have a higher chance of making it through a hurricane because they buffer winds for one another.
The next rule is to avoid areas that are close to your house or to power lines (this can cause dangerous electrical problems). You’ll also want deep soil and a deep water table. These qualities will allow a tree to develop a deep root system, which will keep the plant in place during high winds.
To determine how deep a water table is, follow these steps:
- Dig several holes that are 2-3 feet deep.
- Wait 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.
To make sure the ground is ideal for planting, keep your yard aerated. Aeration (plugging holes in the ground) helps fix soil compaction, and compacted soil leads to weaker trees.
Cost: Transplanting an existing tree costs between $150 and $880 per tree. Choosing a site for a new tree is free.
3. Keep shrubs and trees healthy
You’ve selected your plants and placed them in a prime area. The work doesn’t stop there. To fully protect your home, you need to keep your trees and shrubs healthy. Weak or diseased trees are much more likely to fall or snap in half.
How do you take care of trees and shrubs? Keep them pruned and trimmed. Regularly cutting back a plant encourages healthy growth and gets rid of dead or dying limbs (which are the first to fly off during a storm).
Plant care also means preventing pest and disease problems. Apply a fungicide to plants annually and get rid of potential fungal breeding grounds like piles of fallen leaves and soggy soil. Inspect your plants regularly for harmful insects.
Pro Tip: Choose native plants for low-maintenance landscaping with fewer pest and disease issues.
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.
4. Install hurricane-resistant fencing
Fencing is a great option for privacy, displaying beautiful vines, and keeping out peckish pests. Not all fencing is created equal, though, when it comes to surviving a storm. When you’re picking out your fencing, consider two things: structure and materials.
A fence’s structure determines its wind resistance. Solid fencing, for example, doesn’t allow wind to pass through so the full force of a gale hits it all at once, which increases the likelihood of damage. If you really want to keep your solid fence, reinforce the posts with brackets and remove a single panel at either end to allow wind to flow through.
The best choice is a fence that has openings. This includes slatted fences and chain-link fences.
A fence’s materials also contribute to its storm resiliency. Wood isn’t your best bet. Metal like steel, and wrought iron are much more durable and less likely to collapse under a fallen branch. Vinyl is less resilient than metal, but it is salt-resistant and waterproof.
Cost: Expect to spend between $7 and $50 per linear foot on fencing. Chain-link fencing runs between $5 and $35 per linear foot.
5. Opt for soft mulches
Small debris can cause a big problem. Imagine a pebble picked up by 100-mph winds and hurled at your car window. The most common free-standing debris in a homeowner’s yard is usually mulch: That’s why we recommend opting for soft mulch.
Soft mulch includes:
- Shredded bark
- Wood chips
- Shredded leaved
- Pine needles
Avoid these mulches:
- River rock
- Pea gravel
- Rubber chips
- Landscape glass
Using soft mulches will save your car and home’s exterior and prevent potential damage to people, as well. Plus, most soft mulch adds beneficial nutrients to your soil as it breaks down.
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.
6. Clear storm drain paths
Making it through the storm itself is one thing, but dealing with the aftermath is another. A flooded yard can cause all kinds of problems for your grass and your home’s foundation. Standing water is a primary cause of erosion.
Excess water needs to have a clear path to the nearest storm drain. The first step is knowing where that storm drain is, then clearing any thick vegetation or fencing that’s in its way. Any obstacle can seriously stall the drainage process.
Regular yard cleanup is also a key part of keeping the path clear. Debris like leaves and twigs will inevitably accumulate in your yard, especially during seasonal changes. Rake and pick up debris regularly and perform a deep sweep when seasons change.
Cost: Professional leaf removal typically costs between $73 and $511, depending on the yard’s size.
7. Get rid of storm hazards
Accessorizing a landscape is a key part of the design process, but those final touches can become serious flying hazards during a storm. That doesn’t mean you have to do away with them for good, but it does mean it’s best to store them in a safe place if a bad storm is on way.
Potential storm hazards include:
- Outdoor dining furniture
- Lawn furniture
- Garden benches
- Flower pots
- Fallen branches
Cost: You can do this yourself for free.
8. Anchor hardscapes
You can store your lawn chairs in the garage, but what should you do with larger hardscape features? Hardscapes are anything that’s nonliving in your yard, which usually includes things like pergolas, birdbaths, and playground sets.
You certainly don’t want your arbor flying around and smashing into the side of your neighbor’s house. When choosing hardscapes, pick sturdy, heavy material that can withstand high winds. Metal or stone are good choices. Turn existing hardscapes onto their side for more security, then anchor them to the ground with concrete blocks.
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.
Get help with a pro
If you want to secure your yard as soon as possible with less work on your end, hire a professional. They can help with tree trimming, planting, and fence installation. To keep your backyard beautiful with regular lawn maintenance like edging and mowing, call a Lawn Love team.
Main photo credit: Wilmington, Delaware Skyline along the Christiana River | iStock photo