Defenses for Unpredictable Spring Weather
Spring can often bring unpredictable weather. Storms can come up suddenly in any area of the country and cause damage to your garden. A little protection and a few preventative measures can prevent plant loss and save you both money and time. Here are a few of the most common weather related issues and a few ways you can counteract their effects.
A late cold snap can kill plants and your gardening budget in one fell swoop. Fruiting shrubs, perennials and annuals alike are sensitive to frost and can be severely damaged by a late or “killing” frost. Here are few tips to keep from losing plants to frost.
- Plant in the right place. Don’t plant cold-sensitive plants where they will be encouraged to bud early, before the last frost has passed. For example, plant a blueberry on a north-facing slope where it will be the last to feel the effects of spring.
- Use later blooming cultivars. There are usually early, middle and late blooming versions of a plant. Research before you buy.
- If all else fails, cover them up. If the forecast calls for a late frost or freeze and your shrubs or plants are vulnerable, cover them at night. Use newspaper or a cheap, thin cloth like muslin instead of plastic. These will allow the plant to breath and won’t burn it if you’re a little late getting up in the morning. Get the covers off the plant as early as you can.
Powerful winds can wreak havoc on a tree. Limbs can be twisted off or they can even be ripped from the ground. Many spring thunderstorms come with high winds and can produce a particularly strong wind called a microburst.
A microburst is a localized column of rapidly sinking air. The air drops straight down till it hits the ground, then it goes straight out. One can last for a few seconds or a few minutes and it can rip a tree right out of the ground.
Spring is also tornado season in many states. The winds produced from a powerful tornado are far too strong to be fought with simple measures so these solutions will be geared more towards the less severe thunderstorm winds.
- Choose trees wisely. If you live in an area prone to windy conditions, be sure to pick deeply rooted trees that are less likely to be uprooted or trees with strong trunks.
- Plant in the right place. Plant the trees on the side of your home that is best protected from the typical direction of the wind.
- Don’t get fancy. Trees and shrubs prunes into unnatural shapes are more susceptible to breakage. Avoid complicated topiaries unless you have them in pots that be brought indoors in bad weather.
- Choose an alternative. Some plants like certain native grasses do very well in windy conditions. Lower growing shrubs may also work better.
Spring storms can leave puddles in your garden. If you have low lying spots or heavy soil, the water could stick around for a while. Many plants like clematis simply won’t tolerate standing water.
- Amend the soil. Add organic matter and till it into the existing soil to improve drainage.
- Divert the water. Add a wet weather creek bed or French drain to divert the water from the area.
- Pick plants that don’t mid wet feet. Irises, astilbes and hydrangeas love the extra drink and red twig dogwoods and hostas will tolerate a little flooding.
Prevention is the key to getting ahead of weather issues. Keep some old newspapers on hand for late frosts and plan your landscaping for the weather your zone produces. It’s much easier to plan ahead that pay for repairs.