If you know that a storm, or particularly strong gales, are expected you should take the time to secure your garden.
Tools & materials required
Before the storm
Gales are the most common cause of damage and disruption in the UK. Once a major wind storm hits, it may be too late to protect your property.
There are several things that can be done beforehand to protect your property and limit potential wind damage.
1) Protect your belongings
Bring smaller items like potted plants inside and take down hanging planters that could crash into windows.
Garden tools and equipment can be seriously damaged by windy weather and become incredibly dangerous if picked up by the wind. To keep your garden equipment safe, secure and looking its very best for longer, store it in dry conditions and ensure that everything is fully dry before putting away.
Invest in a good quality shed to protect larger items that can't be brought inside the house for safe keeping. If you already have a shed, make sure that it is in good enough condition to withstand adverse weather conditions. In particular, check that your roofing felt is secure.
Replacing split and worn roofing felt is an important task you need to do if you want your garden equipment, tools and furniture to stay in tip top condition. If you've not got roofing felt on your shed it's easy to install, flexible, strong and durable. Felting your shed roof will go a long way to weatherproofing and protecting valuable tools in extreme weather conditions.
We can help you get started with our video guide to felting a shed roof
Damage to shed doors is common in high winds. Keep them closed and securely locked. This will not only prevent the wind blowing them off the hinges, but it will deter burglars in winter months.
Secure your garden
Secure any outdoor objects and equipment that could be lifted by the wind. Make sure smaller items are properly restrained or moved inside to avoid becoming flying debris that could damage your, or someone else's, home.
Anchor and secure larger items such as tables, chairs, large umbrellas, trampolines and play structures. There are many ways to safely secure these objects including weights, ropes, chains, and stakes. Sheds should be firmly fixed to a strong base.
If you haven't already stored your barbecue away for winter and haven't got a shed to store it in, it's worth investing in a quality barbecue cover to protect it from the elements.
Fences provide practical privacy and shelter against the blustery weather, but can also bear the brunt of much of the bad weather, be it rain or high winds.
Make sure all your boundary fences are secure and posts are firmly set in the ground. Wooden fences are prone to rot or attack by insects, making them weak. To prolong their life, treat them regularly with wood stain and preservative. The part of a wooden fence post most likely to rot is the section buried underground. If not reinforced in time, it will eventually collapse and pull down the entire fence, especially in high winds.
Find out how to repair rotten fence posts with our how-to guide.
If you live in an area prone to high winds, it's worth rethinking your fence. Wooden fences create a block for the wind that eventually forces the fence to the ground. For strong wind resistance, you need to build a fence with gaps in it to let the wind blow through it. This reduces the force the wind has on the fence and reduces the chances that it will fall.
Trimming and maintaining large trees
Falling trees and blowing debris in storms often cause fatalities and severe structural damage. It is your responsibility to maintain trees in your garden, removing weak branches and trimming trees that could fall on your home and cause damage during a storm.
Prune, rather than top large trees.
Many people have a tree topped or removed because they are afraid it is too big and will fall over. Trees do sometimes fall over or drop limbs, but rarely because they are too big.
Removing whole tops of trees or large branches creates unsightly and sometimes hazardous rotten trees. It stimulates rapid growth of small, weak limbs which are more likely to drop, damaging your home and the surrounding areas. If you want to keep your tree small and safe, topping is not the way to go. Good pruning will reduce the bulk of a tree, letting in more light and allowing wind to pass through. Reducing wind resistance will make your tree safer.
If you're worried about the size of your tree it's a good idea to contact a local tree surgeon.
The ideal time to prune a tree is during the first ten years after planting. This will help you 'train' the tree, promoting proper growth and form.
Spot the signs
Signs of potentially hazardous trees include mushrooms or white sheeting on the trunks, cracks in the trunk, earlier topping cuts, excessive dead wood, heavy cone set, large hollows and cut or disturbed root systems.
Protect your Plants
High winds can cause serious damage to plants. Windy weather dries out leaves leading to browning, scorching, loss of buds, flowers and leaves, and in severe cases plants can be uprooted. Thankfully, preventing wind damage is easy:
- Windbreaks can be erected using netting, or mesh. These filter the wind, reducing its strength.
- Use canes to support plants. Be sure not to tie them too tightly to plants, as this will cause breakage. The plants need to have some movement.
- Keep plants, especially potted ones well watered during periods of high winds.
- Place plants in pots against a sheltered house wall, but be careful to avoid a position where buildings create a wind tunnel.
- Insulate containers by wrapping them with bubble wrap.
Always keep a close eye on your plants to make sure that there are no crossing branches that could rub against each other and cause damage. Physical rubbing of stems and branches damages the plant making an ideal entry point for plant pests and diseases. Remove any crossing branches immediately. Any branches that have been damaged should be cleaned up with a sharp knife.
Hedges and trees can also be used to protect shrubs from wind scorch. Plant shrubs in the lee of a garden hedge.
Invest in a Growhouse or Coldframe
If you're really worried about extreme weather damaging your garden, it's worth investing in some sturdy plant protection.
- Growhouses: these economical alternatives to traditional greenhouses are ideal for plant propagation and protection, or for hardening off plants heading from the warm greenhouse to the garden.
- Coldframes: these bring warmth and shelter to your garden and help your seeds to become strong, healthy vegetables, shrubs or bedding plants.
If plant damage does occur in most cases the plant will grow out of it, although in extreme situations you may want to prune out the damage. Pay particular attention to watering and feeding after a damaging weather event.
After the Storm
Often, when a wind storm ravages your area, a lot of debris is left in the roads or on the ground. Here's how to successfully clean up and know when to ask for help.
Inspect Trees & Large Plants
To identify hazardous trees after a rough storm, ask this question: "Will the tree damage property or injure people if it falls?"
If the answer is yes, look for signs of physical damage from wind such as broken, hanging limbs or split branches. Also, check around the root system for loose, mounded soil - evidence the roots may be lifting and the tree could be susceptible to toppling.
If you suspect a hazardous tree, hire a specialist to give it the once over and decide whether to prune or take it down completely. This is important because you could be held liable if the branch or tree falls and damages property or causes personal injury.
Making the cut
Cleaning up after a storm is more hazardous than conventional tree felling. Storm-damaged trees are often hung up, bent, or under stress.
If the plants are of a size that you can work on them yourself (shrubs and smaller trees), then you can use a sharp set of pruning shears or loppers to remove the broken branches. Make a careful, clean cut back to the next living bud along the broken branch.
Leave tough jobs, such as trees that are bent, leaning or still have their root balls attached, to an experienced tree surgeon.
Garden Tidy Up
If you find your garden filled with branches, leaves and debris, you have some clean up work ahead of yourself. Tackle the big jobs first, such as fallen limbs or trees that are lying on the ground. Split larger limbs that have fallen so that they are easier to dispose of, or incinerate.
If only the smallest branches of your trees are damaged you can usually be sure that there is little to no permanent injury to the tree. All that is required is to clean-up the broken twigs and branches then use a rake or leaf blower to clear away the rest.
Carefully clean up any debris that might have blown around shrubs. If they were damaged, you will need to do some pruning. Most plants are resilient and will be no worse for wear come summer.
For more help & advice on tidying your garden, visit our Autumn Tidy Up inspiration article.