JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Hurricane proofing your landscape should target three areas including water drainage, tree selection and planting or pruning strategies.
Making sure your yard drains quickly not only reduces moisture problems around your home but prevents trees from falling over in high winds.
Saturated soil increases root disease which weakens trees and reduces the roots ability to hold in the dirt. The flooding also depletes oxygen and washes out minerals in the ground.
Be sure to turn off the irrigation system before the storm, but after it clears you may have to water down vegetation if it was flooded by salt water in an effort to leach out the salt below the root zone.
Most submerged turfgrass will survive but can be killed quickly if the water reaches the high 80s. Expect to see an increase in fungus and weeds since herbicides are often washed away.
Picking and planting the right trees
Grouped trees withstand high winds better than single specimens but be sure to allow enough space for the root spread with sufficient distance from pavement and make sure to keep larger trees away from your home and power lines.
Our native trees that hold up best in tropical cyclones favor those with wide sprawling branches, small leaves, low centers of gravity, and steadfast deep root systems.
Suggested wind-resistant varieties include sabal palms and smaller palm varieties such as manila and pygmy date. Gumbo limbo, live oak, and sea grape also have high survival rates after hurricanes.
A University of Florida study found sand live oak and American holly to be the sturdiest during Hurricane Ivan’s 120 mph winds in 2004.
Other suggested wind-resistant varieties in the study include southern magnolia wax myrtle, sweetgum, crape myrtle, dogwood, live oak, and sabal palm.
Live oaks are another great choice since the trunks rarely snap but massive branches can break and 78% of the oaks died after Hurricane Andrew’s landfall in south Florida.
Trees can be saved after they tip out of the ground if your protect the roots from drying out with wet burlap.
Young or small trees require bracing up to two years until the root systems regrow.
Older trees or those larger than 6 inches in diameter or those with roots exposed for an extended period of time are unlikely to survive.
A properly pruned tree promotes healthy growth makes it more resistant to wind damage. Thinning or reducing the crown of the tree helps to reduce upper trunk movement during a hurricane.
Don’t put effort or money into raising the canopy since data from the UF study indicated that foliage and branches toward the bottom is less important in reducing trunk sway in windstorms.
Hurricane pruning actually weakens palm trees and they could become more vulnerable to damage. Only remove the dead palms under the 9 to 3 o’clock position.