Living in the great state of Florida has many pros and cons. During the summer, there’s time to go to the beach but you also have to make time to get your yard hurricane ready. We’re not telling you to go ahead and board your windows up, but there are a few things you can do now to save time when a hurricane starts to swirl in the Atlantic. There are some steps you can take when hurricane season begins, when an actual hurricane watch begins, and once the storm has passed. Although hurricane season started June 1, there are still some pre-emptive actions you can take to help your landscape, home, and surrounding trees make it through a storm.
Before the storm arrives, make sure storm drains and ditches are clear of debris and free-flowing to lessen the likelihood of flooding. Clogged storm drains can lead to not only flooding of your home, but of your landscape as well. For this same reason, it’s a good idea to keep your gutters clean. Cut back any trees and weak limbs hanging over or making contact with your home. These things can be done now—don’t wait for the storm to be named as that will be too late.
Once the storm is named and it’s likely that you will be affected, make sure all your equipment you are going to use for clean-up is serviced and full of gas and oil. Gas supplies may be low after the storm or the route to the gas station may be inaccessible. Next, tie down or bring in anything in your yard that may become a projectile during the storm: lawn furniture, potted plants, grill, etc. If you can’t bring potted plants inside, lay them down because winds are weaker by the ground and they’re less likely to be stripped of leaves and branches broken. Also, water your plants prior to the storm as electricity and water may be down for an extended period of time afterward.
A point of contention amongst Floridians is, “Should I hurricane-cut my palms?” Hurricane pruning is when you cut most of the fronds off a palm to reduce wind resistance in hopes of decreasing wind damage. The answer is no. Over-pruning of fronds compromises the strength of the head’s multi-layered structure, which is already perfectly designed to absorb high winds. Hurricane pruning is more likely to cause damage to your palm by snapping the crown and can also narrow the trunk leading to trunk failure. This may be because the fronds that are left are too young and have not hardened enough to be supportive like the older fronds.
After the hurricane has passed, the first thing you want to do is assess the damage, being sure to look out for downed powerlines and broken pipes. Contact your local power supplier if you have any downed powerlines around. Stand up any plants you laid down or ones that may have been uprooted/unpotted. If you live close to the coast or waterways, you may want to irrigate your plants to flush out any salt residue. Hurricanes can carry salt spray for miles. Then the “real” work begins! Pick up any downed limbs and cut down any unsalvageable trees. Cut these into manageable lengths and neatly stack the debris curbside for pickup (which as we learned from past storms, may take a while).
Hurricane season is upon us and this has only been things to get your yard prepared. You also must get your house ready, family prepared, and put a hurricane kit together. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get it all done. You don’t want to be racing the storm, so do what you can now before there’s a threat. A tropical depression can become a hurricane quick, so make sure you stay up-to-date with any threats from the tropics.
Written by Harry Owens, Horticulturist