Sally Scalera: Here's your hurricane to-do list for large trees on the Space Coast

Sally Scalera
For FLORIDA TODAY
A tree that's too close to sidewalks, driveways or streets is prone to blowing over during a storm.

Support local journalism: Find offers for new subscribers here: Special Offers — FLORIDA TODAY.

Now that May has arrived, we cannot escape the fact that hurricane season will begin on June 1.  

Though I do not expect a bad hurricane season (blame it on optimism), it is always best to be prepared. If you own large trees that are 50 feet or taller, complete this checklist as soon as you can.

Location. Check to see if any large trees are planted less than 12 feet from a sidewalk, driveway or street. Any closer is not recommended, because trees can cause damage by lifting and cracking cement. If you do have a large tree planted too close, consider consulting a certified arborist to determine if the tree needs the canopy thinned because of a lack of proper rooting area.

Look for girdling roots. Walk around your trees to see if any girdling roots are visible. A girdling root will be growing on the surface of the soil, close to and around the trunk. Girdling roots can eventually strangle a portion of the trunk, which, if it wraps half-way around the trunk or more, could kill the tree. If a girdling root is present, consult a certified arborist.

Call in a certified arborist if you find a root girdling a large tree in your yard.

Sally Scalera:Professional landscapers can now become Florida-Friendly certified

And:Sally Scalera: Once believed extinct, these butterflies are making a comeback in Brevard

Are you using pesticides correctly? Sally Scalera: Improper use of pesticides can cause harm to people, pets, the environment

Count your trunks. Does your large tree have more then one main trunk? If yes, do the two trunks form a pronounced “V” where they come together? If you said yes to both, contact a certified arborist, because the two trunks are creating included bark which will cause problems in the future.

Know your roots. Has there been any construction activity within approximately 20 feet of the tree trunk within the past 10 years? If large roots have been cut close to the trunk to make way for things such as a sidewalk or utilities, the tree may be prone to falling in the direction where the roots were cut.

Improper pruning can put a large tree, and your home, in danger.

How old are your oaks? If you have a laurel or water oak that is around 50 years old, have it checked out by a certified arborist. After studying the past 11 hurricanes that have hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew, the tree that caused the most damage was the laurel oak. Both laurel and water oaks are prone to developing root rot when they reach the half-century mark, so it would be best to have an arborist assess the tree and determine if the tree is still safe.

History repeats itself. Do you have a tree that has failed — lost a major limb or trunk — in a previous storm? It will most likely fail again. That was another finding that was discovered after studying 11 previous hurricanes. Trees that had lost limbs, or had been blown over in a past storm, are more likely to do so again. You may want to consider removing the tree and planting a new one.

Hurricane season 2022:Will Florida dodge a major hurricane strike again in 2022? Forecast shows increased risk

'Hurricanes don't care about your timeline':Experts urge preparation for storm season

Don't scalp your palms. Never let anyone do a “hurricane cut” on your palms to protect them from being blown over during a hurricane. Palms, in general, fair well through hurricanes, but the practice of removing all but a few of the fronds can make the palm more vulnerable to damage during straight line winds or a hurricane.

A large canopy of fronds protects the terminal bud, but when most of the fronds are removed, the bud is more vulnerable to being snapped by the wind. Once the bud is snapped, the entire palm will die. So, do not let anyone remove green fronds, or fronds with both green and yellow tissue in the same frond. Only totally brown fronds should be removed.  

After a storm. Now, when it comes to after the storm it is simple. Trees or shrubs that have lost their leaves will be fine. Make sure to water them deeply once a month with one inch of water at one time (if we are not receiving an inch of rain from a storm), and they should produce new leaves.  

Trees and shrubs that suffer broken limbs should be cleaned up by pruning out the damaged limbs. Plants that have been blown over a bit (less than 45 degrees) should be set back up as soon as possible. If the tree is too heavy, like a citrus tree, leave it and continue to water and care for it. Trees or shrubs that have been blown completely over should be removed.  Remember, that is an opportunity to replant a new tree.

Protect your trees, protect your home. Taking good care of your trees will protect both the tree and your home during a storm. Not only can trees protect structures from wind damage, but they also increase property values. Take a walk around your yard this weekend to assess the health of your trees and determine if you need the help of an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist.

To get a list of certified arborists here in Brevard County, go to the website 

treesaregood.org. If possible, get three arborists to visit so you can compare their assessments and their quotes.  

Support local journalism: Find offers for new subscribers here: Special Offers — USATodayNetwork.