Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Hurricane Season

By Pam Brown, Emeritus Extension Agent

Hurricane season is upon us. Now is a good time to be sure that your landscape is prepared before the weather starts heating up in the tropics.

Trees are the largest plants in our landscapes and the most vulnerable to high wind. But you must also consider everything in your landscape. Create a plan for securing or storing anything that can become a missile in high winds.

After hurricanes, we see pictures of uprooted and broken trees. Some trees are stronger than others in high winds. It is primarily the way branches are attached to the trunk that determines how well trees behave in high winds. The angle of attachment that branches have with the trunk can be a problem. The strongest attachments are those that have an angle greater than 45 - 50 degrees. Narrower attachments of less than 45 degrees can contain included bark which creates a very weak at the junction of the trunk and the limb that is more likely to break. Branches that are as large in diameter as the trunk are very heavy and can split away from the trunk Dead branches break easily in winds and can cause damage to structures.

Some trees are brittle and do not do well in high wind no matter what their structure. Cherry laurel and sand pines are a couple of the worst. Trees that have been planted for less than one year should be staked to stabilize the root system if this was not done at planting. Palms do not need “hurricane cuts”; this type of pruning actually makes palms more vulnerable to wind damage

If we have large trees with some of these problems - what should we do? Trees that have structural problems can be pruned to improve their wind resistance. It is best to contact a certified arborist to evaluate and prune large trees. Do not let someone talk you into topping your trees. This can create a hazard tree that is more likely to fail. There are a lot of tree surgeons out there that are not certified arborists. You can find a certified arborist in your area by going to: Be sure to ask anyone you call for references and proof of liability insurance.

There are other things to do to prepare your landscape for hurricane force winds. Healthy landscape plants survive hurricanes better on average, so, maintain your landscape appropriately. Review everything you have outside in your yard and prepare a plan for the items in your landscape that can be dangerous in high winds. Almost anything can become a missile if the wind is high enough, including rock mulch. If you have plants in pots, determine where they will be stored during the storm. If you do not have room to secure them inside, you could place them between a structure and a high dense hedge. Very large plants in containers could be secured with tie downs or turned over on the side up against a corner wall.

Patio furniture likewise is vulnerable and must be secured. Glass top and other heavy tables can be placed top down on old towels on a secure surface. Chairs should be secured inside or tied together and secured. Yard art can be easily overlooked and could become flying missiles during hurricanes, so be sure to secure these items inside. And, don’t forget to bring the garden hoses, tools, and toys inside.

Plan now for what you will do to prepare your landscape - write the plan down so you will not forget something when a hurricane is on the way. When creating your plan, remember to be realistic about how much time you will need to accomplish all of the tasks.

For more complete information about hurricanes and your landscape, please visit the University of Florida/IFAS Pinellas County Extension website at:

1 comment:

Vicky said...

Thanks for such great details. For the 37th Edition of the Festival of the Trees blog carnival, we talked about Survivor Trees. Your post was a fitting addition to the "Hurricane" section!