Make your landscape hurricane ready
Central Florida residents look forward to fun in the sun during the summer months, but June also marks the beginning of hurricane season. While there is no way to predict if a major storm will hit, it is best to be prepared. Taking the time to identify any potential areas of risk in your landscape setting could save you a lot of heartache if a storm approaches our state. Here are a few things to consider as hurricane season cranks up. Trees are often the source of damage to homes after a tropical storm or hurricane. Certain trees, such as palm trees, are naturally wind resistant and do not need much care before hurricane season. Inspect all of your trees, looking for signs of root rot or butt rot. These fungal diseases are most common in older trees and trees that have sustained injury. Some indications a tree may have rot are dieback, discolored foliage and an overall unhealthy look. The growth of fruiting bodies known as conks at the base of the tree is also an indication of root rot. If you have any trees that look suspicious, they should be removed, especially if they are close to your home or other structures.It is also a good idea to remove any trees that are leaning. If you are unsure if one of your trees should be removed, consult a professional arborist. Trees that are not rotting but have branches growing close to your home or over your roof, should be pruned. Many homes are damaged each year when strong gusts of wind cause branches to fall on rooftops. Pruning can shape your trees in ways that make them more resistant to damage from high winds. It also removes damaged branches and promotes healthy growth. Trim any trees that have branches close to power lines. Thin the foliage of your trees so the wind passes through freely, which will reduce the chance of uprooting. If you have tall garden plants or vegetable plants, you should stake them to make them more stable. Heavy rain can beat plants badly and high winds can break them. Loose lawn ornaments, grills, patio furniture and birdbaths can be thrown around during a storm, so be sure to remove them from your yard and store them in a safe place. Inspect the rain gutters on your home and repair any that are loose and clean them if they appear clogged. It is also a good idea to check your shutters, making sure they are fastened properly. Inspect any fences and screened patios for areas that should be repaired to reduce damage to your property. Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes so remove any old tires, pots and boats that could collect rainwater. The University of Florida, IFAS Extension website provides suggestions for homeowners regarding hurricane preparedness in the landscape. Before choosing new plants and trees for your yard, find out how wind resistant they are. Palms, live oak and sea grape all tolerate strong winds well. Consider the size of trees at maturity and keep them away from power lines. Planting trees in groups not only makes them more wind resistant, but they can act as a buffer for your home and other plants in your landscape. Taking the time to prepare your yard for hurricane season will greatly reduce your chances of damage. However, once a storm has been tracked, there are things you should avoid doing. Avoid trimming branches and vegetation to keep your yard free from debris. Don't begin any building projects outdoors that may be difficult to clean up before a storm makes landfall. After a storm passes through, collect debris and leaf litter and place it in secure containers so you can take it to the curb on the designated day for your neighborhood. Hopefully we won't have an active hurricane season this year, but it always pays to be prepared. By getting your yard in order early in the season, you won't be scrambling at the last minute to secure your property.