Fallen branches

Winds can break tree branches Photo by Jane Gates

Autumn and spring are seasons that may bring the nicest temperatures to Southern California and some other chaparral canyon areas, but they can also bring howling winds that are forced through the canyon-surfaced crust of the earth, compressing and raising temperatures. Since you never know how dry the windy season is going to be outdoors, it’s best to plan for the worst so you don’t get caught unprepared for wind damage and maybe even for the threat of wind-driven wildfires. Here are some tips to make your home and garden a little safer at this time of year.

  • Close up umbrellas and store light furniture that can become wind-borne.
  • Use only heavy concrete pots near swimming pools, hot tubs or other areas where blown over pots could create havoc.
  • Keep gutters and drains cleared of leaves and pine needles that are perfect for igniting in wildfires and can cause flooding and other water damage in rains.
  • Stake young trees for one to two years until roots can anchor the tree sufficiently.
  • Don’t leave tree supports in for more than two or three years to encourage strong root growth for future windy seasons.
  • Trim backlong tree branches, dead branches and branches close to the house.
  • Don’t allow any branches to rub against your roof.
  • Keep large trees thinned and deeply watered to avoid toppling in high winds.
  • Check roofing tiles regularly to keep them from lifting and blowing off.
  • Secure or put away loose items on the patio or back yard.
  • Keep an eye on forecasts and avoid parking under trees when winds are forecast to be very gusty.
  • Don’t leave sharp objects where they can be blown into the air. And weight or secure light structures or coverings so they don’t get caught by winds.
  • Bring pets indoors or provide solid wind shelters in heavy winds.
  • Cover ponds or other open features with netting to protect from blowing weeds, leaves and trash.
  • Make sure you have a secure grill cover over your chimney to trap rising hot ashes or embers if you plan to use your fireplace to burn wood.
  • Clear away piles of wood, leaves or any other potentially flammable material from near structures.
  • Use fitted covers over your pool and/or hot tub.

The windy season in the chaparral will strip autumn leaves quickly from trees and blow them into places you don’t want them. If you buy or build a compost heap you can turn those pesky leaves into an asset. Leaves and small branches and twigs will break down even faster if you use a chipper shredder. But by composting these materials you will not only save yourself the effort of bagging and canning them and dragging them down to the street to be collected, but will have a rich, dark compost by the end of spring to dig into your soil. For plants that have not evolved in chaparral conditions – most of the plants sold in garden centers – the worst thing is the lack of organics in the soil. So recycling these materials into compost will save you having to by bags of the stuff while turning those wind-driven materials into an asset for your garden.

Always keep safety in mind first. Think in terms of who uses your garden, children, pets or adults. And look at your space from their vantage point to help identify objects and areas where howling winds can create dangers. Sometimes building a wind break will make a whole portion of your property both safer and more useable during windy weather. The time it takes to check out your property and make necessary changes will be only a fraction of what clean-up will otherwise demand. With a little common sense and preparation, you can make this next windy season safe and easy for you, your home and your family.