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How to storm-proof your garden

Our 12-step guide to securing your garden in case of a storm.

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When we see clouds like bruised knees on the horizon many people's first thought is, "Hope I get the washing in before it pours".
But sometimes those rain clouds can bring disaster too: howling winds and flash floods. So how can you storm-proof your garden this summer?
1. Listen for storm warnings!
These are usually broadcast on ABC radio, and if you live in a cyclone, tornado, flash flood or bushfire zone (ie, most of us) at least listen to the news bulletins in danger times.
2. Do a "storm check" of your house.
How would your shutters fare in a high wind? Is that pergola weighed down with too much greenery? Could hanging baskets swing and break your windows? Could garden furniture crash against windows too?
3. Inspect your trees!
Any dead or dying limbs can be a danger. So can trees where the lower branches have been pruned off leaving them top heavy. Be especially cautious of any tree growing in the lawn. These may well have been watered very little or only just enough to keep your lawn green, but leaving your tree with shallow roots.
If in doubt, attach tethers to your tree, pegged into the ground on three or four sides, if a big wind is predicted. Pruning out some of the branches may make it less heavy, and so less likely to fall too.
4. Tree surgeons are your friend.
A good tree surgeon can assess what branches and trees may be dangerous, and take whatever action is necessary to sort out the problem. Make sure they're qualified, though, and have their own insurance, so that if anything goes wrong, it's not you who pays. A bad tree surgeon can actually make the situation worse.
5. Mulch!
Your topsoil can be entirely washed away in a major storm, especially if it's a newly dug bed. A tough mulch like sugarcane mulch is perfect, stopping soil from eroding as well as keeping in precious moisture afterwards.
6. Drainage.
Make sure all garden walls have drainage holes, otherwise water can build up behind them, and they may collapse.
7. Accidental dams
Watch out for steep banks behind your house — especially if there are houses above you. Sometimes a storm can wash down grass and leaves and make a "dam" behind fences — and when that dam breaks, a wall of water can crash down towards your house.
8. Divert the flow.
If necessary, put in drains around your house to direct water away from living areas. These don't have to be the big drains you see under roads. Our "house drains" are just gentle slopes in the grass as well as garden beds that will divert water around the house, not through it.
9. Mind your slopes
Check that your paving slopes just very slightly away from your house, not towards it. I don't mean a steep slope — you need to be able to place chairs and tables on it without them wobbling. But when you hose your paving, watch where he water flows. It should wash off the paving, not towards the house.
10. Pack away the shade
Make sure you can take your shade sails down, or loosen them on one side, if there's a high risk of a hail storm — a shade sail full of hail may collapse.
11. Clean out the gutters.
Gutters full of leaves will mean your gutter overflows and water may seep into window or roof edges.
12. Fix your leaks
If your roof leaks, do more than stand a bucket under the drips. A leaking roof needs to be sealed before ceilings or timbers rot in the damp.
I learned my lesson many years ago when the house flooded simply because a torrent of rain fell on the small slope behind us.
These days the trees are pruned around the house, the drains are kept clear, there are garden beds above the house that divert any water that might flow down the slope — and when I see purple clouds on the horizon I only need to take the washing in, and yell "Hurray!"

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