Preparing for September Storms

Monday, September 11, 2023

September is typically characterized by threats to the province by tropical storms and full-fledged hurricanes. It is important to stay informed on the timing, and track, of all monitored storms in order to give yourself as much time as possible to come up with a plan of action and prepare the farm.

Check out Environment Canada's Hurricane Track for updated information on all monitored storms.

Once the forecast becomes a bit more clear on the storm track, daily tasks can be managed to try and reduce the amount of damage caused, or overall loss. 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 before things get going. 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.

Preparing Your Greenhouses

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 structural damage can be significantly reduced. While this would expose the crops beneath, and could result in crop damage and loss, the main infrastructure can be saved. It is a difficult decision to make, but ultimately compare the value of the crop to the value of the structure itself when weighing the options. For crops that are typically terminated mid September, a slightly earlier end to the season could be less detrimental compared to the loss of a structure. 

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. Latch and brace doors and vents, re-enforce end walls, 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. 

It is also advised to unplug electrical equipment where possible to prevent a surge once power returns, and ensure that drainage systems are cleared and ready for large volumes of water. Make sure that the area surrounding the greenhouse is clear of items that could be picked up by the wind, and that any weak/old overhanging tree branches have been removed. 

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 to give the crop a good water before things get going. Its always a good idea to try and 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.

In the meantime, keep track of the forecast and plan ahead as much as possible. Stay safe everyone