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UF/IFAS experts: Hire a certified tree inspector before hurricane season

Even a Category 1 hurricane – with winds at 74 to 95 mph – can snap trees, so find a certified arborist before hurricane season, a University of Florida landscape specialist says.

To make sure your trees can withstand strong winds this hurricane season, Andrew Koeser, a UF assistant professor of environmental horticulture, suggests using the services of an expert certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

“As part of the maintenance of the property, an arborist will prune dead branches – which are the most likely things to break in a storm – and note the condition and health of the trees on the property,” said Koeser, a faculty member with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The arborists, especially those qualified by the ISA to perform tree-risk assessments, can examine your trees and offer safety measures. These include continued monitoring, pruning and plant health care and removal, said Koeser, who conducts research and Extension at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

“Homeowners should really hire professionals to do the work,” he said. “Working aloft or on a ladder with a chainsaw is something best left to the professionals.”

Pre-hurricane lawn care

As for preparing your lawn before hurricane season, UF/IFAS experts suggest proper care, as you would do all year. That includes fertilizing, irrigating and mowing. That combination will make lawns more tolerant to stress and less likely to experience problems, said Laurie Trenholm, a UF/IFAS professor of environmental horticulture and a turfgrass specialist.

Unfortunately, Trenholm said, homeowners cannot prepare for some storm-caused lawn damage. After the big rainfall, you might see several problems, but you can correct them.

“After a large rain event, you can see areas where water might stand for some time – hours or days,” she said. “Grass may not be damaged if the higher water sits for a short period, but if grass remains submerged for any length of time, the biggest worry would be root rot diseases.”

A homeowner often can tell if he or she has a root rot disease by pulling up the roots in affected areas and seeing if they appear brown and have rotting areas, Trenholm said.

“There will often be a distinct odor as well,” she said.

But it’s best to send a sample of the affected area to one of our plant disease diagnostic clinics:

  • UF/IFAS Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab, Gainesville, Florida.
  • UF/IFAS Extension Plant Diagnostic Clinic, 18905 SW 280 St., Homestead, FL 33031
  • UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Clinic, 2685 State Road 29 North, Immokalee, FL 34142
  • The plant clinic at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 14625 County Road 672, Wimauma, FL 33598
  • Plant Disease Diagnostic Center, 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL 32351

For more information on the UF/IFAS diagnostic clinics, click here.

If you have a diseased lawn, you might want to apply fungicide or just replace that part of the lawn, Trenholm said. Check with a UF/IFAS Extension faculty member your area before you do anything.

Areas of your lawn that are under water for a long time may have compacted soil that requires the owner to aerate the soil and allow for better drainage and roots, Trenholm said.

On the other hand, it may be an example of not being the “right plant at the right place,” she said. “You might then consider replacing that area of turfgrass with another plant selection or a different kind of grass.”

Original press release