Southern Gardening: Prepare gardens before storms arrive


This container-grown plot of fall sweet corn is about knee high and very susceptible to storm wind damage.

This container-grown plot of fall sweet corn is about knee high and very susceptible to storm wind damage. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension


Gary Bachman



Editor's note: This column was written just prior to Hurricane Sally. Other tropical storms have formed and may evolve to impact Gulf Coast states.



I write this while contemplating what a wild year 2020 has been. There's no need to remind anyone about the pandemic that has literally changed our landscape.



The next big thing is Hurricane Sally making landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Every tropical storm or hurricane creates landscape and garden chores that need to be finished before the storm arrives.


My biggest concern is always for the wind blowing loose objects around and causing damage.


I have my storm panels up, and they're pretty unique. Mine are made of a clear polycarbonate, very much like greenhouse panels. They're lightweight at about 16 pounds per panel. Compare that with plywood panels that can weigh up to 85 pounds each. And because my panels are clear, outside light can come instead the house, preventing it from becoming a dark cave.


I gathered containers and other vessels I'm growing plants in because I don't want them blowing around. It's a good thing I grow many of my landscape plants and citrus trees in big, heavy 15- and 25-gallon containers. They're not going anywhere.


My vegetable garden has been taking off in a very good way the last six weeks, but I've got a bad feeling I may be rethinking my garden in a couple of days.


My fall tomato plants are flowering, and some are setting fruit. My peppers are producing fruit like crazy. I'll be making a quick harvest before Sally arrives.


I'm growing my first fall sweet corn plot. It's currently about knee high and will probably be all lodged over once this storm has passed.


But all is not lost, even if I lose all my fabulous vegetables. That's because I've already started sowing my cool-season leafy greens like colorful Bright Lights Swiss chard and various varieties of kale. Those seedling trays are inside on my germination racks.


Bright Lights Swiss chard has bright-green leaves, and the stalks and mid-ribs are stunning colors of gold, pink, orange, red and purple, with many variations. These plants are perfect for the edible ornamental vegetable garden. The baby leaves with their unique taste can be used raw in salads for a pop of color and flavor.


If you're a member of Southern Gardening Nation, you know I'm a huge fan of kale. I like any and all varieties of this easy-to-grow super food. I've started several varieties, including the heirloom Early Hanover, the curly-leaved Siberian, and Red Russian, with its red petiole and mid-rib.


Regardless of what happens to my corn or tomatoes, I know I will be enjoying fresh kale chips in about a month. You can bet I'll be singing the praises of home-grown kale and other greens later this fall.


There will always be problems and challenges that create havoc in our gardens and landscapes, so consider a shift in thinking. Rather than focusing on how bad it is to lose some plants, think about how much you'll enjoy the opportunity to try something else.


Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]




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