|Years can pass between the worst storms, but it is important to prepare your yard and home for this inevitable event. In fact, proper planning can actually help protect your home. The right kinds of trees and shrubs can create windbreaks and protect your home from flying debris.|
Preparing your yard requires thinking ahead.
To keep your yard and home safe, keep hurricanes in mind when planning your gardens, planting new trees, and doing regular home maintenance. If your yard and home are well taken care of, you will be in a much better place when storms do arrive.
1. Choosing the right trees for your yard is key for long term tree health and safety. Find trees labeled “Florida Fancy” or “Grade #1.” These trees will be more hurricane resistant and grow well in Florida
2. Know how wide and tall your mature tree will be, and determine whether or not your tree will fit in the desired area. Don’t plant tall, wide trees too near your house or other buildings. If you have a smaller yard, choose trees that remain relatively small. Make sure that your tree will not grow over buildings or hit power lines.
3. Be aware of how large your new trees will grow. Make sure you are leaving enough room for the roots. Roots grow 3 to 5 times wider than the canopy of your tree. Plant trees well away from underground wires, septic tanks, irrigation lines, or sidewalks so that the root system has plenty of space.
4. Once you have planted a tree, make sure not to prune or dig around the roots. Damaging the roots of a tree can make them more susceptible to disease.
5. Check your hardiness zone and try to plant trees and shrubs that match this zone. This will keep plants healthier and more able to withstand hurricanes.
6. Keep in mind that trees are easiest to train when they are young. It is best to train trees when they are young because the pruning cuts will be smaller and heal better in the long run.
7. Choose trees that naturally have one leader, or trunk, and make sure to prune for that growth pattern. Trees allowed to grow with multiple leaders may look pretty, but as they grow, they are less stable and more likely to blow over in a heavy storm.
8. When pruning your trees try to keep the horizontal branches. These branches are usually attached more securely to the tree than branches growing upright. To have strong, trees, you must consider structural integrity.
9. Do not “top” or “hatrack” your trees. Topping is when you whack off the top of a tree’s canopy. This practice is illegal in many counties and municipalities because of the damage it does to trees. This practice kills trees and does not make them safer in storms.
10. Do not “lion tail” your trees. This is when you remove small branches from the larger branches and all of the foliage is left at the very end of the branch. This will make your trees top heavy and unhealthy. Think of an umbrella in heavy winds. The wind grabs at the ends and can pull the tree out of the ground.
11. Plan your garden and think in groups. Plants that can grow together will lead to a dense root system where the roots of many plants intertwine and grow at different levels, which will help them stay in the ground during storms.
12. Consult a certified arborist if you have any questions or concerns about the trees and shrubs in your yard. Arborists can help you choose the right trees and can make sure the pruning and training of the trees is the best practice. Keep an eye on storm tracking during hurricane season so that you have as much time as possible to prepare your yard and home for the storm. Never leave your home during a storm to try and move things around. This is extremely dangerous. Prep your home before the storm hits.
13. Check your trees for any rotting branches or roots. Prune away dead branches that might fall in heavy winds. If you have dead trees, you should have them removed. Do not cut off large, healthy branches. The larger a cutting wound is the more likely for infection and disease to hit the tree. If your tree becomes unhealthy, it will be more likely to fall during a heavy storm.
14. Try to do any pruning at the beginning of the storm season rather than right before a storm. If you leave this until right before a storm, you will be left with branches that are now projectiles and must be housed somewhere.
15. Because young trees do not have the same amount of roots, which means they are not anchored as strongly as older and more established trees, you should stake newly planted trees before a hurricane. You can drive 2x4s deep into the ground and tie your trees. Keep the tie-downs loose enough that the tree can move in the wind, but not so loose that the rope will become loose and whip around during the storm.
16. Check drainage areas, and remove all debris from storm drains. If a storm drain is full of debris, storm waters will not be able to flow away correctly and can cause worse flooding. Standing water can loosen root systems and lead to trees falling after the storms.
17. Palms do not need to be pruned for hurricanes. Do not remove healthy fronds from palms. This practice is detrimental to the palm trees. Some palms, for example the cabbage palm, are self-pruning. This means the fronds drop when they are dead. Palms that do not self-prune, should be pruned carefully and never over-pruned. Wait until the fronds are completely brown before removing them from the tree. They can add nutrients back into the tree if left alone.
18. Before a storm, you should remove any coconuts or large palm seeds from your palm trees. These can tear off and become dangerous. Removing them does not harm the tree.
19. Remove all tools, furniture, and yard decorations from your yard before a storm. Secure small, loose items in a shed or garage. These items, if left out, can become projectiles. Close and secure any shed or outbuilding doors.
20. Bring your potted plants inside. Anything that is small and light will need to be brought into your house, a shed, or garage. You should also bring in any delicate plants that are likely to lose leaves.
21. If you run out of space, wedge the plants behind hedges or anywhere where they will be protected from the wind. Large potted plants can be laid on their sides and tucked out of the wind. Make sure to group your pots as closely together as possible to help secure them.
22. Lay tall plants on their sides and, if possible, remove the trellises of vines. If you can’t remove the trellis, make sure to secure it to the ground. If the plants are too large, you should secure the plant and trellis with rope and stakes or to the building or fence the vine grows on.
23. Turn off your irrigation systems. You should try to turn the water off at a main line if possible. If a tree comes down and breaks the water line, the water can add to flood problems.
24. If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, pick the produce. If it is at all close to ripe, you should pick it before the storm. Most of the time you will lose the vegetables and fruits if you don’t.
25. Clean your rain gutters of leaves and twigs and remove any debris from your roof. Check that your gutters are still securely attached. If there are any rickty areas, re-secure them.
Hurricanes can be a stressful time for homeowners, but with a little planning, you can minimize the dangers to your property.
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