At home with Jackie How to pro­tect your home from wind and storms

When dam­ag­ing winds or rain are fore­cast, there are ways to pre­pare your home and gar­den, says JACKIE FRENCH

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

There is one weather fore­cast you can al­ways rely on – if it’s Fe­bru­ary, there’ll be a storm, with rain, thun­der, light­ning, hail or even just a wind hot as a pizza oven. One is com­ing, so it’s wise to be ready.

1 CHECK YOUR TREES

All dead or dy­ing limbs can be a dan­ger, but gum tree branches may drop sim­ply be­cause it’s hot and dry, and the tree is con­serv­ing mois­ture. Prun­ing off lower branches can make trees top heavy and more vul­ner­a­ble in storms.

Be cau­tious of trees grow­ing in the lawn. They may have been wa­tered just enough to keep your lawn green, leav­ing the tree with shal­low roots, so it can eas­ily blow over in a wind, es­pe­cially if wet. Re­mem­ber that 1L of wa­ter weighs 1kg, so wet branches are go­ing to be far heav­ier than dry ones.

If in doubt, call in an ar­borist to as­sess your tree. They may de­cide to sta­bilise it with heavy ropes firmly pegged to the ground on three or four sides, or thin branches to re­duce weight and re­sis­tance to wind.

2 SAVE YOUR SOIL

One flash storm will wash away bare soil. Cover with a tough mulch, such as sug­ar­cane, which won’t blow or wash away eas­ily. Fruit fly net­ting, well se­cured over a frame, can pro­tect your soil and ve­g­ies from hail, un­less there is so much of it the net can’t cope, and it col­lapses. But even that may mean less dam­age than leav­ing it un­pro­tected.

3 SE­CURE THINGS THAT CAN MOVE

This in­cludes any­thing that can blow away or crash into your French win­dows, such as gar­den fur­ni­ture, bi­cy­cles, loose shut­ters or hang­ing bas­kets that may swing and break. A shade sail full of hail may col­lapse. Make a list of what­ever needs to be taken in­doors or made se­cure be­fore a storm hits.

4 CLEAN OUT THE GUT­TERS

When gut­ters are full of leaves, they over­flow and wa­ter may seep into win­dow or roof edges. You can buy spe­cial gut­ter cov­ers these days, but even with them it’s worth check­ing that de­bris hasn’t seeped in.

5 AVOID GAR­DEN DAMS

If there are houses above you, leaves and de­bris may wash down and make a dam be­hind fences, which will then col­lapse, send­ing a fierce rush of wa­ter down the hill. Make sure all re­tain­ing walls have drainage holes, so wa­ter can’t build up pres­sure be­hind them.

Make sure wa­ter will flow away from your home, not pud­dle around it. Our ‘house drains’ are just gen­tle slopes in the grass, as well as gar­den beds that di­vert wa­ter around the house, not through it. Check that your paving slopes just very slightly away from your house, not to­wards it – not steeply, just enough so that when you hose your paving, the wa­ter flows away from the house.

6 WATCH AND LIS­TEN

Once you get to know your land, you may see signs days be­fore a se­vere storm: the wa­ter level ris­ing in springs, tur­tles head­ing up­hill, snakes and lizards be­com­ing sav­age and bit­ing each other, or stock head­ing to the most shel­tered spot they can find.

Check the weather ad­vice morn­ing and early af­ter­noon, or watch your lo­cal radar site to see storms that may head your way. And ask! What hap­pened in the big storm of ’88 or 2011? Where did the wa­ter run, the flood rise, the hail fall? If it has be­fore, it will again. Sim­ply, be pre­pared.

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