Hurricane Preparedness in the Garden: Pt. 3

Part 3 of a 4-part series
By Bob Randall, Ph.D

Trees start getting seriously damaged by high winds generally at about a Cat 2 Hurricane force of 96 mph. But they hit the coast at this speed or higher every 20 years on average. Fortunately, most of the Houston area has almost never seen these wind speeds. But it’s good to remember that storms across the planet are only getting stronger, and previous climate history has limitations under warming. 


Generally central Houston is about 2 categories below the coast, but much depends on many other factors.  The advice below is for dealing with winds in the 30-80 mph range.   


Because cyclones hit the coast both east and west of Houston and because winds are counterclockwise, high winds can and do hit from any direction. Thus, what you want to do if possible is establish windbreaks on all four sides of your property and have them far enough from buildings to provide some safety.  These could by chance or cooperative design be partially in a neighbor’s yard and should focus on native hurricane-resistant Gulf Coast trees. 


Tree across road after hurricane force winds knocked it downTry a computer search for “hurricane resistant trees” + either “Louisiana”1 or “Florida”2 or “Mississippi3.”  These natives have wide tenacious root systems, a low center of gravity, and smaller leaves. Examples common here are coastal live oak and bald cypress.  Both are highly wind resistant but spread their roots widely and may cause minor landscape problems if not sited carefully. 

In front of or behind these trees, try to get some native coastal shrubs like
wax myrtle.  This may take a decade to have a significant result but ten years from now it can save lots of smaller plants from damage.  During Hurricane Ike, our windbreaks saved 18 peppers and all but 1 tomato. So, windbreaks are worth the effort.


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.

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