Hurricane Preparedness in the Garden: Pt. 1

Hurricane Preparedness in the Garden: Pt. 1

Part 1 of a 4-part Series

By Bob Randall, Ph.D.

In this century, summer and winter gardeners in our area have been repeatedly dismayed by the increasingly unstable climate. The focus most of us have is on people care first and major property next, but plants too have extreme difficulty with feet of rain, tropical storm force winds, high or low temperatures, and epic droughts.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on our plants. Worldwide, the ten hottest annual temperatures have happened since 2010 and the 18 hottest since 1998. Accordingly, the Gulf is heating up. Galveston has measured temperatures since 1872 and the ten hottest years ever have been since 2005. College Station has been measuring since 1889 and 5 of its 6 hottest years have been since 2011. 

Rainfall has also been a big problem. Tropical storms in 2017 (Harvey), 2019 (Imelda), and Allison (2001) dumped several feet of rain on much of Southeast Texas in just a few days, and each of these storms were among the wettest rainstorm events in the recorded history of the US.

Droughts on the other hand are not getting more frequent but because of higher temperatures, are getting worse. The 2011 drought killed large numbers of non-native trees both because rainfall was near historic lows and because what did fall evaporated faster.

Hurricane force winds do not seem to be more common than in earlier times, but when they do hit, they may be getting more deadly. Higher water temperatures in the Pacific have spawned super-cyclones with winds well abobe 150 mph. Many of us have trouble visualizing the differences between windspeeds. This short video helps make it clear what happens to plants and us at high windspeeds, and is worth watching:

No Advice will adequately mitigate  the worst of the winds, widespread dry soil for weeks in triple digit temperatures, water sitting puddling on the roots for weeks, or for that matter, swings in the sub-artic jet stream that create the coldest mid-February temperatures since the 19th century.

But thankfully these conditions are still rare in any one place, and there are many steps you can take to minimize damage from the most common stuff. For the last 24 years, I have taught the permaculture class on designing for disaster, and so, have had to think a lot about what we can do to adapt as well as mitigate. In the next few blogs, I will share a few thoughts about gardening in hurricane season.   


Image of Bob Randall, Ph.DAbout the Author:
Bob Randall, PhD. is a food systems anthropologist and permaculture designer with a five-decade involvement in food systems both as a researcher, educator, and activist. He helped found and direct Urban Harvest for 14 years and is a board officer of both OHBA-Organic Educators and the Permaculture Institute of North America. 

Check out his book, Year Round Food Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas, to learn more about climate resilient gardening.