Weather or Not
Michigan has always had a wide variety of weather conditions, through its four seasons. That’s one of the factors that keep many of us rooted here. It does seem that the temperature swings are more pronounced now than 20 years ago. And when we get rain, snow, freezing rain or wind- the extremes are more damaging.
What can be done in our gardens to minimize damage? There are a few approaches that will help protect your investment and reduce the chance of the garden suffering from the weather.
First and foremost, site your home and garden above the floodplain. Check flood maps, speak to the municipal zoning staff, and work with a good realtor.  Avoid the heartache of putting months or years and a large financial investment into a property that might break your heart and be difficult to sell later, after a high water event like the one we experienced locally in February.
Even if you are above areas prone to flooding, think about where the water goes when it rains hard or for long periods. Look at drainage issues and redirect water and improve drainage as needed.
Evaluate whether your location is at an elevation that catches the sun and wind, is sheltered in a valley, or is located in a large relatively level area. Each has pluses and minuses, but know what you have before buying or developing your site. Consider whether fences or walls would be needed to provide shelter from wind or privacy for your preferred uses.
Do you already have large trees? Are they healthy? Are they still growing, stable, or declining? Where would they fall in a wind event? Do you see evidence of past damage in your yard or around your neighborhood? The tough question: Should you remove trees now, before your home or a neighbor’s home is damaged?
Once flood risk and wind damage risk are evaluated, think about ways to protect the garden from the inevitable freeze and thaw cycles we experience each year. A regular application of quality mulch at a depth of about 3” will act as a blanket of temperature moderation. Consider whether an anti-desiccant might help evergreens overwinter better.
Last, but not least, use caution with the ice melt products you use, and carefully evaluate where snow is piled in winter. Salt is harmful to most plants, and heavy snow piles will damage delicate evergreens and shrubs. Meet with your contractor used for those services and ask what they use, Walk with them each fall to mark areas of concern, as well as prepare an outline of the drive lane and walks that require snow or ice removal.
Planning and awareness will help protect your garden. It will also create a garden that won’t be a hazard to your home.