Our GardenPlanting

The Hero (a.k.a. how to survive a storm)

It’s midnight. I’m standing in a storm, powerless, soaked, with no shoes on, certain I will be struck by lighting at any moment.

I’m freezing. The only warm detail of the moment is the hot, angry, I-should-have-known-better stream of tears running down my face.

I’m holding the biggest umbrella I have, but it seems not to be helping much. In fact, it seems to be making things worse, especially now that the wind starts gusting.

I’ve hit rock-bottom.

But no. I soon find out that what seems to be bad can get much more harrowing. In fact, hailstones the size of popcorn start ricocheting out the sky and poking me like frozen bullets. Mud starts slinging everywhere. Lighting and thunder get stronger as the hail gets thicker.

How in the world have I managed to get myself into this, when not even ten minutes before I was counting sheep so peacefully in my bed?

Well, let’s be honest. I’m not stranded on a highway, or alone in a dark alley being washed away by the rain. So, in reality, I should actually be thankful for the fact that I’m home.

Yes. I’m home.

In my garden.

Doing what – you may rightly ask – in the middle of the night and in the middle of a storm?

Well, I’m desperately trying to protect my seedlings – my baby tomatoes, tiny cucumbers, blooming zucchini, shooting radish sprouts and tender onions from hail bombs. I’m trying ever so hard to imaginarily stretch my umbrella to cover all the corners of the little patch of earth, but it’s not working. I’m pleading the tiny shoots I can’t reach not to give in to the weather, to please, please, please resist the heavy drops of water and ice hitting their newborn little heads. But, above all, to please forgive me for not being ready to protect them from something like this.

I cry. It’s my fault these little guys will never have the chance to see the sun again, to feel the summer breeze, to live.

How could I not have known better?

I cry some more.

I know, though, that the more time I spend crying, the more time I waste not trying to turn the odds in my favor. Am I really going to give up this easily? Am I actually going to let this black cloud be the one to determine my garden’s fate?

I stop feeling sorry for myself and get a move on. It’s an emergency; there are lives to save.

Being caught unaware by the storm, though, I have nothing a good gardener/farmer would have on hand for an event like this one.

But I do have a multitude of planter pots, in a variety of sizes. I grab all the ones I can find, overturn them and create little helmets for the small plants. Then, I make sure they are all sturdy on the muddy soil before running in the house. I grab a few plastic salad bowls to cover the larger shrubs (i.e. strawberries) with. Finally, I quickly move all of the potted seedlings under the awning and secure the taller peonies to the pergola grid with twisty-ties. Fifteen minutes in, and I’ve finished the impromptu defense system.

I sit on the doorstep, slathered in mud, drenched, still freezing – and I almost laugh to myself, wondering what all of this will look like tomorrow morning once the sun is back out and the birds are chirping. When there is no trace whatsoever of the night except for this improvised battleground.

I have, once more, learned my lesson first-hand. Be excited by the seed hunt, the planting, the watering, the sprouting. But never forget how to protect your budding family in case an off-season weather event, like this one, hits.

So – what to do to be ready for it, if you don’t have the technical expertise and without breaking the bank?

  1. Do believe the weather forecast when it shows the ominous black cloud + lighting symbol. I hadn’t. “No way will it storm here, in mid-May, where temperatures run on a daily average of 28 C (85 F)! The weather app’s satellite inputs are definitely wrong!” Yeah, right.
  2. Stake all of your crop plants, even if they are still small. Gather thick branches from your trees – or buy bamboo ones – and drive them deep into the soil (about 1 meter or 4 feet) right next to your seedlings. Fasten the trunk to the stake with twisty-ties. If strong winds are in sight, this will give the seedling the support it needs to not be knocked down.
  3. When the wether forecasts a storm, securely tie one or more clear, thick garbage bags to the end of your stakes. These will act as a tent, a shield, against hail or heavy rain. Remove these after the storm has passed or it will act as a greenhouse by attracting unnecessary and excessive summer light and heat to your plants.
  4. Be creative with your protection systems. Use organic materials, recycled household items – whatever works for you!

Last but not least, never underestimate yourself. If you are ever caught unprepared, always remember that the need to save creates a powerful creativity rush.

And remember: plants are like little children. They fall face forward, get back up and continue as if nothing were. But it’s up to you to look over them, to help them up, to save them when the time comes.

It’s up to you to be their hero.

P.s. Just so you know, all of the seedlings made it – even the most badgered ones!




Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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