by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
Preventive maintenance is key to preparing for storms. Even our thunderstorms can produce thirty, forty or fifty-plus mile per hour winds. But we are also now in hurricane season. So it is time to consider preventative measures when it comes to preparing our landscapes for storms.
An important preventive measure is to periodically inspect trees in the landscape. Look for and correct obvious problems. Dead trees and broken, dead or decaying limbs can threaten human life or increase property damage during a storm.
In pruning to develop a sturdy tree, it’s best to cut branches before they become larger than one inch in diameter. In pruning to develop a strong limb structure within a tree, it’s best to keep limbs that form a 45-to 90-degree angle with the main trunk. Limbs with this wider angle have a stronger attachment with the trunk and will support more weight compared to limbs with more narrow angles.
If you have hanging baskets or large potted plants on exposed decks, porches or patios, they should be moved indoors ahead of the storm. Other loose items that can be hurled about, such as lawn furniture, garden tools, toys and garbage cans, should also be brought inside before strong winds strike. These items may be damaged or destroyed or possibly become damaging flying objects during a hurricane.
During the storm season, it is important to keep roof gutters clear of leaves, twigs and other debris. Drainage should be at its best to cope with heavy hurricane rains.
Finally, after the storm, inspect the landscape. You may discover that injury has revealed that old shade trees which looked sound are actually rotten and partly hollow. In such cases, as much as you hate to do it, you’ll may have to remove the trees.
Tree removal requires considerable skill. A felled tree can cause damage to the home or to a neighbor’s property. Before having any tree work done, always make sure you are dealing with a tree service that is licensed, insured and experienced.
If you need to hire an arborist, make sure to hire a reputable arborist, preferably one that is a certified arborist.
You can find certified arborists in your area by visiting the International Society of Arboriculture website (http://www.isa-arbor.com) and clicking on “Find an Arborist.”
More information on tree storm damage prevention and treatment is available online at http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/stormy.shtml or from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.