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It’s Time to Prepare Your Trees for Hurricane Season


Your trees can be damaged or even lost as a result of high winds and heavy rains. With hurricane season approaching, now is the perfect time to take action and reduce the risk of damage. Be sure to keep your trees healthy with proper mulching, fertilization, and watering in times of drought. A healthy tree is less likely to be harmed and more likely to survive severe weather. Learn how to protect your trees before it’s too late!

Tree Trunk and Branch Structure

  • Topping a tree creates a dangerous tree and is illegal. Topping (“hatracking”) is the term used to describe over-pruning a tree by cutting it so badly that it is left with few or no leaves on the branches. Trees should never be topped. Topping creates hazardous trees because the wood inside the cut branch begins to decay which leads to internal rot. The sprouts which grow in response to topping are not well secured to the topped branch and they can easily split from the tree as they grow larger. To avoid this, always prune a branch back to a living branch crotch.
  • Trees with a thick canopy should be thinned. Avoid removing more than 25–30% of the foliage per year. Most trees do not need to be pruned each year. Thin the canopy when it becomes thick (hard to see through). Some interior branches should be removed to allow wind to go through the canopy. The aerial roots of Ficus trees should not be removed.
  • A tree with multiple leaders (trunks) will become hazardous to people and property as the tree grows larger. Never allow trees to grow with multiple upright leaders. These trees may look handsome when young but will become hazardous as they grow older. Always prune so that branches are spaced 18-36” apart along the main trunk. In trees with a single trunk be sure the main branches form an angle with the trunk of 40 degrees or more.
  • Horizontal oriented branches are better attached to trees than upright branches. Upright branches are poorly attached to trunks. Horizontally oriented branches (45° or greater) are usually well secured to trunks. A branch growing in an upright manner parallel to the trunk becomes a second trunk. The tree is said to have a double leader. Double leaders are dangerous because they can easily split from the tree during a storm.
  • Tree roots should not be damaged. Root pruning and digging around tree roots makes the tree more likely to fall during a storm. Also, root injuries increase the occurrence of plant disease. When planting, the top of the root-system should be a little higher than the surrounding soil level. The width of planting holes needs to be a minimum of 2–3 times the diameter of the rootball and the depth no deeper than the rootball.
  • The best time to train trees is when they are young. Not only are the branches easier to reach, but the resulting wound will be much smaller and callus over more quickly.
  • Choose trees that suit the area. Large trees need a large rooting zone. Tree roots extend 3–5 times the diameter of the canopy. If the planting area is small or the yard is small, choose a tree species that naturally stays small. Avoid planting trees near septic systems, pools, sidewalks, driveways, utility lines, and buildings. Tree trunks and roots expand in girth as they age. Know the mature height and width of the tree, and take this into account when choosing the planting site. A tree with a 4” trunk caliper needs 200 cubic feet of soil space.

Never cut a branch flush with the trunk. That is, never make a flush cut. Always cut to the outside of the branch collar which is located at the base of every branch. This collar is sometimes easily seen as a swelling where the branch meets the trunk. When pruning in this manner it may appear as though a small stub is left on the trunk. However, properly done, this technique removes the entire branch and does not injure the trunk.

Large limbs should not be removed unless they are obstructing traffic, pedestrians, or are hazardous.
Avoid removing branches that are more than 2” in diameter. The larger the pruning wound, the slower it will callus over (plants don’t “heal they seal”). An open wound is an avenue for disease and insect infestation.

Wound dressings and pruning paints do not prevent wood rot. Wound dressings do not prevent wood decay behind a pruning cut. They provide no benefit to the tree. Some research indicates that wound dressings promote decay in certain situations. If pruning paints or wound dressings are to be used for cosmetic purposes, apply only a very thin coat. Only proper pruning practices prevent wood rot.

Avoid “liontailing” and “overlifting”
“Liontailing” refers to removing smaller branches on large branches leaving the foliage only on the ends of branches. The limbs will look like a lion’s tail. “Overlifting” refers to removing lower branches of trees. These harmful practices make trees more vulnerable to wind damage and rot. The common guide is that the lower half of the tree needs to have 2/3 of the foliage and branches.

Palms don’t need hurricane pruning
Palms are adapted to wind storms. Removing fronds is of no benefit and is detrimental to the palm. Even dying leaves benefit the health of the palm and should not be removed until completely brown. Only coconuts and large palm seeds should be removed during hurricane season.

Download the 2017 Hurricane Readiness Guide for additional preparedness information. Click here.


Several Magnolia Varieties Flourish in Florida


Several varieties of magnolias can be found in Florida. The saucer magnolia, sometimes called a Japanese magnolia, can have pink blooms or might have white blooms on the inside with pink on the outside. Alexandra magnolias have large, tulip-shaped blooms, purplish-pink with white interior. The “Black Tulip” has globed-shaped flowers of deep port wine-red.

There are several other varieties of magnolias:

  • Southern magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora): This is the one of the best known trees in the state.
  • Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia Macrophylla): Leaves are 18-24 inches in length and 4-12 inches in width. The flowers are large with a diameter of almost 16 inches.
  • Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia Virginiana): This small, slender tree reaches heights of 50-90 feet. It is found on low, moist areas or wetlands. The flowers open from early spring to early summer.
  • Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia: This plant may be seen at the corner of State Avenue and 23rd Street. It grows to about 30 feet high. Another dwarf form magnolia is Saint Mary.
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Preparing Your Trees for Spring


The months following Winter are an important time to consider the health of your trees. Performing some early maintenance in March and early April can help to ensure your trees enjoy a long, productive growing season. Here are some important tree care recommendations Florida homeowners should consider to prepare for spring.

Post-Winter Cleanup
Remove twigs, leaves, and other detritus that may have piled up beneath and around trees. If you have used any protective plastic or coverings during the cold winter months be sure to remove them as the warmer months arrive.

Inspect Trees for Damage & Disease
Look for obvious signs of tree disease, including broken branches, holes, molds, and fungi. Also take notice which branches do not put out blossoms or leaves—these are likely dead and ready to be pruned away, ideally by a professional. Our Sustainable Tree Care-certified arborists can recommend when to remove branches, when to add supportive cables, and when it is best to remove the whole tree, rather than risk it falling in severe weather.

Plant New Trees
Trees bring dozens of benefits to your property. They reduce noise levels, stabilize soil, and give wildlife a place to perch. Trees also increase property values while decreasing energy costs. Spring is a great time to add trees, as their roots will have enough time to dig in before scorching summer temperatures hit. Of course, every tree species has its own preferences, so feel free to contact us with questions about the best time to plant a new tree.

Add Mulch
Mulch provides protective cooling during the hottest, driest parts of the year, helps trees retain moisture, and minimizes weed growth. Trees fewer than 10 years old should be mulched, although trees of all ages benefit from mulching.

Water & Fertilize
Watering and Fertilization is important in the spring months. Fertilizer is a good idea whenever soil lacks the nutrients needed to thrive. To figure out if an established tree needs fertilization, observe its shoot growth (the growth that happens in a single year). In general, growth of less than 2 inches suggests fertilizer may be needed. Of course, a certified arborists will take many other factors into account when prescribing the best fertilization approach. In addition to soil testing, foliage color and the history of the yard should also be considered.

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New Threat to Florida’s Palm Trees


There is an alarming tree condition throughout Florida that is impacting homeowners. The disease, know as Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD), can kill a palm in weeks and may have already impacted as many as a dozen in the city of Clearwater this year.  It is also threatening the Canary Island date palm, the wild date palm, the edible date palm, and also the native Sabal palmetto. It joins lethal yellowing and Ganoderma butt rod as threats to palm trees that have appeared in the last several decades.

Scientists haven’t declared an epidemic yet, but the hardest hit areas so far are in Central Florida—Charlotte, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Orange, Polk, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. In the last two years, it’s been discovered in Broward, Palm Beach, Duval, Lake and Indian River counties. They believe the disease has felled thousands of trees statewide, but total numbers are difficult to come by because many were cut down and mulched before the cause of death was determined.

To determine if your palm trees have been affected, you can attempt inspect yourself or call a professional. While palm fronds that die from natural age often hang flat against the palm trunk a sign of TPPD is a browning of the fronds that happens so rapidly they won’t have time to hang flat. After a few weeks, each row of fronds will also die.

Contact us as soon as possible if you think your palm has been impacted @ 1.888.ARBOR.68.

Sustainable Christmas Tree Disposal


Pinellas and Hillsborough County offer residents several options for disposing of Christmas trees following the holiday. Recycling services are going to be provided in Belleair, Clearwater, Dunedin, Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Largo,  Madeira Beach, Oldster, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, and Treasure Island. In cities not offering recycling services, trees will be picked up curbside but will not be recycled. Residents who live in apartments or condos should check with their property managers for disposal instructions.

Hillsborough County

Curbside Pickup
Remove all tinsel, decorations, and lights.
Cut the tree into sections no larger than four feet long and six inches in diameter
Place on your curbside on regular yard waste collection day

Drop it Off
Take your tree to a yard waste processing facility. The following sites are open Monday through Saturday (except on holidays) from 7:30am–5:30pm.

  • Falkenburg Rd. Resource Recovery Facility: 350 Falkenburg Rd. Brandon (813) 744-5599
  • South County: 13001 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton (813) 671-7611
  • Northwest: 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave. in Tampa (813) 264-3816

Note: customers need to have current tax bill and proper I.D. to access the facilities and unload the tree themselves. Non-county residential solid waste customers can pay a tonnage fee.

Recycle and Reuse
Chop up or grind your live Christmas tree for mulch around trees, shrubs, and flower beds. For more information, head to: visit

Pinellas County

Pinellas County cities will be collecting Christmas trees for recycling and processing into useful mulch. Pinellas County officials say all decorations including hooks, garland, tinsel and lights must be removed from the tree. Also the tree should be kept loose, not in a bag or trash can.

The following cities offer Christmas tree recycling:

Curbside collection with yard waste on regular day. For information, call (727) 588-3769, ext. 401.

Curbside collection with yard waste on regular day. For information, call (727) 562-4920.

Curbside collection with yard waste on regular day from 12/26/13 – 1/10/14. Residents without curbside yard waste pickup can plan a pickup day with their association property manager. For information, call (727) 298-3215, ext. 1328.

Curbside collection with yard waste on Wednesdays. For information, call (727) 893-1089.

Indian Rocks Beach
Curbside collection with yard waste on Wednesdays. For information, call (727) 595-6889.

Curbside collection with yard waste on regular days. For information, call (727) 587-6760 or visit

Madeira Beach
Curbside collection with yard waste on Wednesdays. For information, call (727) 399-2631.

Drop off at 107 Shore Drive W., across from Park Boulevard. Open from Dec. 26 to Jan. 13. For information, call (813) 749-1266.

Pinellas Park
Drop off at 12950 40th St. (residents only). For information, call (727) 541-0711.

Safety Harbor
Curbside collection with yard waste on Wednesdays. For information, call (727) 724-1550.

St. Petersburg
Drop off at a St. Petersburg brush site: 1000 62nd Ave. N.E., 7750 26th Ave. N., 2500 26th Ave. S., 4015 Dr. MLK Jr. St. S., or 2453 20th Ave. N. Another option is curbside pickup. Place your tree out by Friday, Jan. 10, for pickup on Saturday, Jan. 11. If your tree has not been picked up by Jan. 11, please call (727) 893-7398.

Tarpon Springs
Drop off at the yard waste facility at 898 S. Levis Ave. for a fee, or put out for curbside collection with yard waste on regular day. For information, call (727) 943-4837.

Treasure Island
Curbside collection with yard waste on regular day. For information, call (727) 547-4575, ext. 253.

The following cities will not be providing recycling:

  • Belleair Beach
  • Belleair Bluffs
  • Belleair Shore
  • Indian Shores
  • Kenneth City
  • North Redington Beach
  • Redington Beach
  • Redington Shores
  • Seminole
  • South Pasadena
  • St. Pete Beach

Residents in these cities can drop off their trees at Pinellas County Solid Waste located at 3095 114th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The cost is $3 per load with a maximum of five trees. The trees can be dropped off Monday – Friday from 6am–6pm and Saturday from 7am–5pm.

For more information, contact Pinellas County Solid Waste at (727) 464-7500 or visit Pinellas County Utilities at

Five Best Trees for Florida


Looking for the perfect tree that will hold up to Florida’s severe weather? Look no further. Here’s a short list of some of the best trees to enhance your property for years to come.

This little-known tree grows to about 40 to 50 feet. A native hardwood, it provides good shade and has demonstrated strong resistance to hurricane force winds. The tiny fragrant blooms and glossy leaves make it an attractive choice, but it should be planted at least 20 feet away from your house.

Canary Island Date Palm
These palms hold up well in strong winds. Despite a huge crown, they are some of the most stable large trees, growing up to 60 feet tall. They are know to have some pest problems and can be expensive. Experts suggest using them as focal points on large properties or at entrances of gated communities.

Live Oak
A large native tree that grows to about 50 feet, it has been called the most wind-tolerant shade tree for Florida. Some died when Hurricane Charley made landfall, but not far away they survived and started growing leaves three months after the storm. The roots need room to spread, and they can become unstable if planted on residential properties with small yards.

Pygmy Date Palm
One of the best trees for wind tolerance in Florida, it survived Hurricanes Andrew and Wilma and has fared well in winds up to 120 mph. It doesn’t need restaking or pruning. This slow-growing feather palm from southeast Asia reaches about 10 feet and comes with single or multiple trunks.

Sabal Palm
This tree has been known to tolerate winds of up to 145 mph. Because they are less attractive than other palms, some gardeners don’t think they are appropriate for front yards. Plant a few trees close together in back yards to protect plants underneath. They grow to about 50 feet and thrive in almost all conditions.

Source: Stormscaping by Pamela Crawford, Florida Data, An Online Encyclopedia of Landscaping Plants, Bedrock’s Guide to Landscape Plants and Native Florida Plants, Sun Sentinal, Best and Worst Trees.

Essential Steps for Fall Tree Care


Prepare your trees for the months ahead and encourage healthy growth next spring. Before it gets chilly, take some time outside to help your trees stay healthy and happy by following these essential Fall tree care tips.

Clean Up
It’s important to remove at-risk trees heading into winter m months. Remove leaf piles and be sure to prune dead, diseased or unsafe branches. If you are unsure which trees or branches to remove, contact Sustainable Tree Care for a free consultation.

Don’t forget to fertilize your trees and shrubs. Add mulch to trees and shrubs where needed. Be sure to cable or brace weak limbs to prepare for severe weather.

Plant & Water
Some trees shed their leaves in autumn and sprout new life in the spring, but fall is actually the best time to plant new trees. Since temperatures are much cooler and there is much less chance of stress from sun scorch, drought or extremely high temperatures, newly planted trees get the chance to build root mass and prepare for winter.

Take some time to inspect your trees and shrubs for insects and signs of disease. It is important to treat any problems early. If you are unsure which trees or branches may need treatment, contact Sustainable Tree Care for a free consultation.

How To Know When It Is Time To Remove a Tree


Removing a Tree Can Be Emotional

For many of us, trees are not just an element of our landscape; they are the holder of memories. People often plant trees to commemorate an event such as the birth of a child or to honor a loved one that passed-away. We also look at trees and remember our childhood when we spent so much time playing under or climbing on them. So, if you are faced with the knowledge that the tree must be removed, it can be very difficult to do.

Can I Just Trim or “Top” My Tree Instead?

The short answer to this question is, “It depends.” If the tree is diseased and just certain branches are infected, it may be possible to remove just those branches and save the tree. However, if the disease has permeated throughout the tree, the disease has probably progressed too far.

In the case where trimming the tree is possible, you should work with an experienced arborist to determine which branches need to be removed. This is critical because without professional help you may miss some problems that will mean that your tree will become re-infected.

Topping a tree is the process of removing the majority of the crown of the tree. This is never recommended either as a process of saving a tree nor as a way to reducing the size. Trees naturally grow to a certain shape depending on the type. When you top a tree all of the tree’s energy is directed toward regaining that shape. This leaves the tree weak. Further, when trees are topped most of the leaves are removed. Trees get their food from leaves so when they are removed you remove its nutrition source.

Signs That Your Tree Should Be Removed

There are a few signs that you can watch for that are high indicators that you may need to remove a tree.

  • Are there several large dead branches?
  • Is the base of the tree split?
  • Is there any rotting wood at the base?
  • Are the leaves colors unusual?
  • Are the branches brittle?

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, it is highly recommended that you contact a tree removal professional. Removing a tree is very dangerous work and to avoid hurting yourself or others or your property, you should work with someone who is very experienced.

Hurricane Season Preparation


Florida Is Just Entering Into Another Hurricane Season

Pinellas County advises all of its citizens to make sure that their yards and trees are prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.  Part of getting your yard prepared is to make sure the yard is clear of loose items like furniture, grills and loose rocks.  The largest part of hurricane tree preparation is to make sure your trees are ready to take mother natures brutal assault.

Easily Avoid Property Damage

While some homeowners have a yearly maintenance plan for their trees, many do not. For those that don’t it is incredibly important that their trees get evaluated for potential problems. A tree may be leaning, very large, or look unhealthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tree is a danger. If you are unsure if you should call someone to look at your property, there are things that you can look for.

  • Dead branches
  • Damaged or cracked limbs of branches
  • Branches that are heavy and hanging low
  • Branches that overhang your house

If you see any of the above, make sure to us today.

Watch For “Hurricane Pruning” Scammers

You may have seen trucks with signs offering “Hurricane Pruning” driving around your neighborhood. While some of these may be reputable, a majority of them are scammers.  What they do is perform pruning of your trees that is not only dangerous for your trees but also possibly illegal in some areas of Florida.  Typically they either top a tree (also called hat-racking) or perform over-lifting.

Topping a tree removes the canopy, or top, of the tree. This technique removes limbs that may be vital to the trees health. When the tree regrows, it often become excessively heavy which can cause even more problems during future hurricane seasons.

Over-lifting is when the bottom half of the half of the trees upper portions are removed. While removing vital limbs and branches makes this technique similar topping, it also makes the treetop heavy. The weight is distributed less evenly in the tree making it much more likely to fall.

Proper Hurricane Tree Preparation

The correct way to prune a tree is something that takes years of practice and training to perfect. A highly trained arborist will do such a good job pruning your tree that your friends and neighbors won’t know that you have had anything done. Most importantly, only dead, injured and diseased branches are fully removed. Overweight branches are pruned and the rest of the may be thinned.

In the case of heavy branches, instead of removal, a certified tree service will reduce the weight on the branch. This preserves the trees aesthetics and ensures the tree is not over-pruned.  The rest of the tree may be thinned, which reduces the wind resistance of the tree. This will ensure that the 70+ miles per hour winds will more easily pass through the tree while making sure the tree is still vibrant and healthy.

Only Trust Certified Arborist To Evaluate Your Trees

You have probably noticed that I keep mentioning “qualified” or “certified” arborist as being the best choice for tree care. While there are a few tree companies that aren’t certified but do good work, there is only one way to be sure to get proper hurricane preparation of your trees. You need to look for ISA Certified Arborist, like Sustainable Tree Care, any time you need your trees pruned.  Of course if you didn’t prepare and you need emergency care for trees that were damaged by high winds or lightening we are available 24 hours a day to help you.

Neighbors Nuisance


After months of seeing their neighbors tree continue to look more and more threatening, Becky and her husband Darren decided it was time to take action to protect their home. Many don’t realize that even though the tree might no be on your property any parts of it that are, are your responsibility.

“Bill came over talk to us about our options, gave us a quote and the tree limb was down by the end of the day!! So efficient and easy to work with. They cleaned up our yard and even removed a fallen limb from our neighbors yard! Thank you so so much. We will be recommending you to everyone we can!” – Becky G.