With the hurricane season in full swing, I think most of us are thinking about what we need to do to keep our homes and yards as safe as possible.
In a previous column I covered several tips on helping to protect your trees and yard from the damaging effects of a storm. Specifically, I mentioned a tip about topping off the crown of a tree in an effort to lower the center of gravity of a tree. This will only work as a short-term solution. In the long term, the trimming of the treetop will actually cause the top of the tree to get thicker and denser which may cause the tree to be even a bigger hazard in subsequent years.
The best approach is to do selective pruning. By selective pruning, I am referring to pruning branches strategically as to allow wind to pass more easily through the tree and thus lower the chances of the tree being uprooted. This process is best achieved if it is done from early on when you plant a new tree. Ideally, your tree should not have any narrow forks or branches leaving the trunk at a sharp angle. The canopy should have adequate space between the branches so that the passage of air through the framework is maximized. Since many of us have large trees that need to be trimmed, it may be advisable to get a licensed tree surgeon or tree trimming service to do the job. Be sure they have experience and knowledge about selective pruning before making a choice. Since this article goes to so many areas, I cannot advise on a company to do the job. The best bet is to check the phone book or ask around your neighborhood.
Adding to the list of trees I mentioned last week, Chinese fan palm, sabal palm, and Washington palms are also very resistant to wind damage from tropical systems.
Another point to consider when checking your yard is to look for areas that are known flood areas in your yard. If you have such an area and a large tree happens to reside in the middle of the flood plain, it has a risk of toppling. When the ground around a tree becomes saturated with moisture, the ground around the tree will become very unstable. This instability coupled with the high winds of a tropical system can cause even a normally stable tree to topple. This inspection is especially important if the tree resides next to a structure. In this case, properly pruning your tree may not only save your tree, but it might also save your home from the damage of a downed tree. Also be aware of any diseased or decaying trees as these can also cause a hazard.
If you do decide to do the pruning yourself, be sure you have all the proper tools and that they are in good condition. Always remember, safety first.
A few examples of the tools you will need for the job are a ladder, lopping shears for smaller branches of around 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter and a hand or pole mount pruning saw for branches that are 3-4 inches in diameter. For larger limbs you will need a chainsaw. A word of caution: You should never use a chain saw if you have to cut branches that are over your head. If you cannot reach your tree using the proper ladder safely, hire a professional! In addition, follow all safety precautions that are packaged with your chainsaw.
Now that you have done your tree evaluation and the tips from last week, you should be ready to put your "hurricane plan" in motion. Now you can proudly say that you are "ready."
Next week I will have the last part of my hurricane series and I will talk about hurricane cleanup. I will share some of the tips that I have found to make life a little easier after the storm.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send emails to email@example.com or visit his website, www.hometowngarden.com.