Preparing the landscape for hurricanes

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM.

June 1 marked the official beginning of hurricane season.  In past years, Florida has had its share of these destructive storms, and is sure to have more in the future.  So, it’s important to develop plans to minimize hurricane damage specific steps to protect ourselves, our homes, and our landscape plants.

The arrival of hurricane season signals the need to develop some contingency plans to guard our lives and property from powerful winds and flooding rains.  Ornamental plants and other landscape objects are especially vulnerable.

One of the most important protective measures is to stake down any new trees and shrubs on your home grounds.  By “new” we mean any small trees or large shrubs you’ve planted with the past year.  The stakes should be two or three feet long.  You’ll need three or four per tree.  Drive them into the soil to a depth of 18 to 24 inches, slanting them away from the tree at a 45 degree angle.  This will make them more secure and less likely to be pulled out.

How far you place the stakes from a tree will depend on its size.  A general rule is to locate the stakes the same distance from the base of the tree as the height above the ground at which you plan to attach the guide wires.  To secure the wires and keep them from slipping off, make notches in the stakes a few inches from the top of each.

Remember that trees account for 20 percent of storm damage to structures during a hurricane or tropical storm.  A cubic foot of pine branch weighs 52 pounds.  A ten foot long branch can deliver as much as one ton of force, capable of puncturing the roof deck and/or damaging the trusses.  Some native trees species survive storms better, requires minimal pruning right before a hurricane and stay strong with age.  Good ornamental trees species include Bald Cypress, Crape Myrtle, and Dahnoon Holly.

Check each one of your trees right now.  Look for signs of structural weaknesses:  bark that’s falling off, poor branch angles (too close), root rot and internal trunk decay.  Fruit trees in general will normally be short lived because of severe hurricane winds, exceptions do occur.  Older trees are always the most prone to wind damage.  Florida maple, Live Oak, the Elm family and several others have good wind resistance as they age.

Any trees that had their roots cut during construction are likely to fall as well as trees that were repeatedly topped and improperly pruned.  Finally, examine each tree’s leaf canopy.  Can the canopy be thinned out or made less dense by removing small branches from the outer edge of the canopy?

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