Preparing Your Plants for a Storm

Preventive maintenance is key to preparing for storms

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care when it comes to preparing for hurricanes. Compared to many areas of the United States, we live in a fairly high-risk area for storm damage and as a result should be prepared.

One of the most important preventive measures is to periodically inspect trees in the landscape. Look for and correct obvious problems. Dead trees and broken, dead or decaying limbs can threaten human life or increase property damage during a storm.

In pruning to develop a sturdy tree, it is best to cut branches before they become larger than one inch in diameter. In pruning to develop a strong limb structure within a tree, it’s best to keep limbs that form a 45- to 90-degree angle with the main trunk. Limbs with this wider angle have a stronger attachment with the trunk and will support more weight compared to limbs with a more narrow angle.

An important protective measure is to stake down small trees and large shrubs planted within the last 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. Always stake and tie the tree loosely so the trunk can move and bend in the wind. Too tight staking and guying can prevent proper internal adjustment to wind loading resulting in a weak tree when stakes are removed. Keep ties in place for a few growing seasons to insure a well-established root system. Continue to loosen and eventually release the ties.

If you have hanging baskets or large potted plants on exposed decks, porches or patios, they should be moved indoors ahead of the storm. Other loose items that can be hurled about, such as lawn furniture, garden tools, toys and garbage cans, should also be brought inside before strong winds strike. These items may be damaged or destroyed or possibly become lethal flying objects during a hurricane.

During the storm season, it is important to keep roof gutters clear of leaves, twigs and other debris. Drainage should be at its best to cope with heavy hurricane rains.

Finally, after the storm, inspect the landscape. You may discover that injury has revealed that old shade trees which looked sound are actually rotten and partly hollow. In such cases, as much as you hate to do it, you’ll probably have to remove the trees entirely.

Tree removal requires considerable skill. A felled tree can cause damage to the home or to a neighbor’s property. Before having any tree work done, always make sure you are dealing with a tree service that is licensed, insured and experienced.

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