Hurricane Irma: Helpful Advice From Dr. Powell Smith, Victor Lilley & Clyde Gurosik (12:30pm, 9.8.17)

— Written By Barclay Poling
en Español

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Good afternoon,

I have been contacted by several growers across our region over the last 24 hours about preparations for Hurricane Irma. A strawberry grower, Eric Hunter, in Easley, SC (near Clemson) reached out to me yesterday with this question: “Looks like Irma may pass over us once it comes inland. Can plastic without holes punched in stay put in 60-70 mph winds?”

A few minutes ago I received this very helpful advice from Dr. Powell Smith, Clemson:

My advice to everyone was to wait to punch holes (for those planting early for fall berries) and hold plants late this week to see storm track. With it now heading through Atlanta, we may miss most of the wind, although, with the winds and rain being worse on the NE side, that is the side that will pass near Clemson. I have told my growers with plastic down to make sure that the ends of the drip tubing be cut short and buried. I saw many acres of plastic ripped up when the ends had not been attached to the headers…they blew around and lifted the plastic at the ends of the beds and miles of plastic was in trees when the storm passed. Also, having holes punched will make the plastic more susceptible to coming up. Naturally, check the sides for loose edges.


Cooperative Extension
Extension Associate, Horticulture Program Team Leader
CUCES-Lexington County, 605 W. Main Ste. 109, Lexington, SC  29072

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

From Victor Lilley <>, we received this advice:


If plastic was laid in good soil conditions using good plastic laying principles it should stay down. A good “J”

Clyde Gurosik’s advice (9.8.17)

Dr. Poling,

I totally agree with Dr. Smith that it is extremely important to assure all sides are covered and hopefully stay that way. We learned many years ago that on rolling, highly erosion prone land, we needed to take the following precautions. We set our cover discs up at a STEEP, NEARLY 70% angle to assure we TOTALLY cover not just the lips, but the total sides and in so doing create a slanted waterway or V to divert all water to the center and away from the edges or lips. It is a lot easier and more cost effective to immediately brush off a little overburden, than to dig hard clay and try to recover later. Before we learned this, we did a lot of HARD SHOVELING after early storms. Diversion waterways must also be cut immediately at appropriate frequencies and reasonable amounts of straw placed to slow runoff. We also found that not delaying, but immediately hooking up all drip hoses helped hold things in place and was more cost effective than letting drip hoses get mud infested and cleaning them later. Making sure that all rows can drain out totally is another important precaution, as any low spots will just fill and cause WASH OUTS. The rest is in Gods’ hands. Hope this is helpful. Good luck.

p.s. Note from Clyde

You probably looked at those photos (above) and asked WHY isn’t the center nearly FLAT and WHY aren’t those hills TALLER?

Those are 6″ hills, that work better for us, as they create conditions that take better advantage of geothermal buffering and micro-nutrient availability on a greater proportion of the total acreage than a 10″ or 12″ hill does and they are EASIER to form, and easier to keep moist during droughts and elevated temperatures, season extension benefit. Please refer to those important GROUND TEMPERATURE charts provided by UGA. A 10″ hill experiences mostly 2″ soil temperature because it is elevated, plastic wrapped and sun exposed on 3 sides. Those 2″ soil temperatures are the MOST VARIABLE and the HOTTEST. A 6″ hill is often cooler because of geothermal buffering. Truth is, we do it all in a single pass, a lot more cost effectively than pre-hilling, and our soils are extremely VARIABLE. We found that pre-hilling and creating flat areas between hills, created a water runoff condition that WANDERED from one LIP to the other, frequently washing one out, then the other as it meandered. Just like we observe on steep mountain streams, water needs a PREDESIGNATED PATHWAY or it will create one. Hope this info is helpful.