Hurricane Season begins June 1st and many are still putting the pieces back together from Irma. So what does landscape hurricane preparedness mean?
Address the Hazards
Hurricane Irma created a lot of damage to our mature tree canopy and although much of that debris has been removed, there still could be lingering issues in our trees. Here are some hazards that should be addressed now, if they haven’t already:
- Dead or broken branches: look up and inspect your trees. Are there any dead or broken limbs hanging in the tree? Remove those branches so they don’t become projectiles.
- Twisted branches: hurricanes blow trees in all directions, and even though the branch is still attached, there may be tears (places where you can see through the branch), those branches should also to be removed, since it is a weak point in the tree.
- Leaning trees: trees leaning towards your house, or potential target, pose a risk and depending on the scenario, should either be braced or removed.
- Staked or Braced Trees: keep stakes and/or braces on trees that have been recently installed or propped up after Irma. They can be re-evaluated after hurricane season.
- Dense canopy: thinning the canopy will reduce the density of branches and allow for air movement which will also reduce the weight of the limbs and help a mature tree resist significant storm damage. However, since most of our trees were significantly damaged from Irma, caution should be taken to not remove too much foliage and further stress the tree.
Should I hire a professional?
Pruning trees, especially using power equipment, can be inherently dangerous work and with little warning, accidents can occur. When working with large, mature trees, it’s always best to hire a professional. Here are some points to consider when hiring a tree care professional:
- Insurance: Does the company carry property damage, personal liability, and workers compensation insurance?
- Certification: Are they a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture? You can find certified arborists located in your area through this website: https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/findanarborist.
- National Standards: Are they familiar with the national guidelines for tree care professionals put out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI A300 and Z133)?
- More than one written estimate: Ask what equipment will be used, cost, time-frame, and how will they dispose of the debris. You can even ask for local references to make sure they do quality work.
Things To Remember
Best management practices will help your landscape withstand future storms and reduce damage.
- Proper planting: trees and shrubs planted properly, which includes addressing any root defects at the time of planting, will go a long way to insure trees survivability in the landscape. Here is more information on proper planting practices http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP11200.pdf.
- Proper Pruning Cuts: remember, trees don’t heal. They compartmentalize damage, and that includes pruning cuts. Where those cuts are made will either help or hinder that process. When trees are well maintained, they increase property value. When they are poorly pruned, they become a liability.
- Structural Pruning: structural pruning increases the structural integrity of the tree which can prolong its life and make it safer in the landscape. This link provides detailed instruction http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/structural-pruning-flash.shtml.
- Palms: do not remove green fronds from the crown of the palm. This can actually weaken the palm, making it more susceptible to damage in a storm, and induce nutrient deficiencies http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP44300.pdf.
- Mangroves: you may need a permit from DEP to prune mangroves, even if they are dead. If your property does have mangroves attached to it, this link provides valuable resources https://floridadep.gov/water/submerged-lands-environmental-resources-coordination/content/mangroves.
Are There Other Issues?
Trees aren’t the only culprits when it comes to risks and landscape hurricane preparedness. When a storm is approaching, don’t forget about other hazards:
- Make sure any potted plants and hanging baskets are moved indoors.
- Outdoor furniture, kid’s toys, garbage and recycling cans should also be secured.
- Have a plan for dissembling, removing, or securing large play equipment, such as trampolines or swing sets, which can become very dangerous or end up in our canals.
- Make sure gutters are cleaned out so water can flow freely and not contribute to roof damage or leaks.
Landscape Hurricane Preparedness should be included in your hurricane plan. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your landscape. It can be dangerous and debris may not get picked up in time and become another hazard. Remember, just because a tree is damaged in a storm, doesn’t mean removal is the only option. Contact a consulting arborist to do a risk assessment and determine if your tree can be saved. For more information on assessing damage and restoring trees visit http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/documents/ep300.pdf.