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  • Anne Yasalonis

Preparing Your Landscape for Hurricane Season



Hurricane season is upon us, and while you are probably aware of the preparations you need to make inside the home, what about those in the landscape?


Prior to the start of each hurricane season, we encourage homeowners to grab a pen and paper, phone or camera, and some landscape flags and head out into the yard to do a pre-storm assessment. Survey your property now and look for things that may be an issue with wind and water— the main causes of damage in a storm. Look for items that can be tackled now (like cleaning gutters) and then make a checklist of what you should do if a storm is approaching (like lower the water level in your pool).


While you will be taking photos to help you determine what you need to do, remember that photos of your home exterior and landscape can be critical to documenting potential damage and the repairs that come with it.


What are you going to look for on your assessment? Areas that could be problematic are:


• Flooding/influx of water/rain

• Erosion

• Change in wind direction and/or high winds.

• Tree failure (and the potential impacts to your property)


Damage from water can be a big problem, particularly if a lot of rainfall occurs in a short period of time. Look for ways to allow the water to flow away from your property and percolate into the soil as fast as it can. What does that mean?


Clean all gutters and catch basins so that if there is a large influx of water, the systems are clear and clean to handle it. Certainly, you do not want to try and unclog a gutter during a storm if there is an issue.


If a storm is approaching, consider lowering the water level in your pool to prevent issues from overflow and chlorine damage on plants. Also, if your landscape is prone to flooding or erosion, consider adding swales to catch and filter excess rainwater. You may even want to create some attractive landscaping areas such as rain gardens or dry riverbeds to make it an asset you can appreciate year-round.


Wind can be scary, but if your landscape is prepared, it will ease many fears.


Prior to the storm, assess all outdoor structures and determine if they can/should be anchored or braced (that’s a task for now, not when a storm is on the way!) or if they need to be taken down and stored in a safe location during the storm. Most outdoor lawn ornaments, potted plants, etc. should be removed and you will need to determine where they will be stored during the storm. Will you have room in your garage? Do you need to bring items indoors? Create a plan to ease potential stress during an oncoming storm.


If you have a fence, consider installing wind gap panels.


What about those trees? How safe are they? What should you do to prepare large trees and palms for a hurricane?


If a storm is approaching, the answer is, not much.


First and foremost, properly planted and maintained trees are the best defense against any potential hurricane damage. But, if it has been a while since you pruned your trees, and you are doing this in the “hurricane off-season” make sure that you follow this checklist:

• Remove any dead or broken branches.

• Stake leaning trees and leave newly planted trees staked.

• Remove limbs that overhang structures.

• Prune your trees with a healthy central leader in mind.


Be wary of services willing to “hurricane prune” your trees and palms! Always contact a Certified Arborist (treesaregood.org/findanarborist) and make sure any pruning does NOT include:

• Topping (see what topping looks like here: hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/topped.shtml)

• Tipping (see what tipping looks like here: hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/tipped.shtml)

• Lion-tailing (see what lion-tailing looks like here: hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/lions-tailed.shtml)


These poor practices will make your trees much MORE susceptible to storm damage.


Only minimal pruning (like a dead branch hanging over the garage) should be pruned when a storm is approaching. Remember, where will all that debris go? Your waste management company may not be able to pick up yard waste and you will be left with a pile of projectiles!


Palms must be pruned properly as well. Only remove dead leaves (completely brown) and never prune above the 3:00 and 9:00 hands on a clock.


For more information on properly pruning palms: blogs.ifas.ufl. edu/polkco/2017/09/08/proper-palm-pruning-not-hurricanepruning.


To learn more about hurricane preparation in the landscape, listen to Your Central Florida Yard podcast episode 7 (aired May 13, 2024). You can find the podcast wherever you listen or find out more on our Substack:substack.com/@ yourcentralfloridayard.


For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk. The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.


The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteerdriven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida. The program extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.


Photograph by Anne Yasolonis

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