Brushing Up On Storm Prep

Friday, September 18, 2020

 Many of us have unpleasant memories of last year’s Hurricane Dorian and its effects on the many crops that were still waiting to be harvested when it hit Nova Scotia on September 7th, 2019. As we stare down the barrel of Teddy, which is currently predicted to make landfall in Nova Scotia as a post-tropical storm on Tuesday, September 22nd, those unpleasant memories may come rushing back. Thinking about another approaching system might bring up some anxiety, but there was also a lot to be learned from last year’s hurricane.

Environment Canada hurricane track map issued 12:00pm September 18th, 2020.

Get Your Storm Chips (and Produce)

It isn’t practical to think that everything can or should be harvested prior to a storm system, however, crops that are most vulnerable to weather extremes can be prioritized in order to save as much of the crop as possible. Things like cucurbits and field tomatoes are prone to splitting after heavy rain, so would fall high on the list of things to harvest first. Consider postponing seeding new plantings or cover crops in the days leading up to a significant storm. Wind and pounding rain can cause erosion and flooding, which could easily dislodge tender seedlings or wash away the seed altogether.

Batten Down the Hatches

Greenhouse or high tunnel structures can be dealt with in a couple of different ways in the face of an impending storm, both with their advantages and disadvantages. If there is an option to remove the plastic from a structure, the chance of being caught by the wind and potentially ripping or acting as a sail and damaging the frame of the structure can be significantly reduced. The downside to this option is that the crops beneath are exposed to the elements which may result in crop damage and loss.

If removing the plastic isn’t an option, make sure everything is sealed up as much as possible to prevent the wind from tearing things loose and wreaking havoc. Latch and brace doors and tie the sides of tunnels down tight. Most structures will have a rating for maximum wind speeds they can withstand. Take into consideration any shelter/exposure provided by the topography of your farm as well as the up to date weather forecast to help make an informed decision.

If you have a generator, make sure you have plenty of fuel and that it’s in an accessible place. If you don’t have a generator and require power for your watering system, make sure you have some water set aside in barrels in case of emergency.

The Aftermath

Besides damage by wind and heavy rains, disease issues can be a big consideration after a storm event. Heavy rain can splash fungal spore or bacteria-containing soils around, facilitating the spread of infection. Crop protectant products may be washed away, leaving the plants vulnerable until they can be sprayed again, if at all. Wind and rain may cause physical damage to the plants themselves, causing them stress and areas of damage where infection can move in. High winds sweeping up the coast may even carry insects from elsewhere, resulting in a flush of insect pressure that would otherwise be unexpected. It is important to scout your remaining crops as soon as possible after a storm has passed so that there is opportunity to mitigate any pest pressure brought on by or worsened by the weather.

I hope that this post will be like remembering your umbrella when it’s forecast to rain: you won’t end up needing it. In the meantime, keep track of the forecast and plan ahead as much as possible while we wait to see what else 2020 might have up its sleeve.