This was the year we got to survey the damage to hurricane ravaged trees from our living room seats instead of staring at our yards covered with damaged plants. The pictures of so many trees down, shattered or stripped bare in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico is a painful reminder of what we have experienced here in the Valley in the past and what will again be a part of our weather one day in the future.
We have read reports from some of our favorite Botanical collection sites on their damage and what they did and are doing to save their trees. Directors and managers alike have attributed regular maintenance and pruning as the most critical factor in how well they faired in the heavy winds. In their article Tips on How to Prepare and Recover From Hurricane and Tropical Storms for Your Tropical Fruit Trees, Jonathan Crane and Carlos Balerdi, University of Florida IFAS Extension stated "The most effective cultural practice to reduce the potential for tree toppling and major damage is managing tree height and spread."
Pruning annually beginning soon after planting helps develop a strong tree structure, reduces tree height and spread, and opens the tree to wind movement. And the added benefits include easier fruit picking and less disease pressures.
If you have been on our Farm Tour you've seen one of our favorite trees, a Baobob we grew from the seed of the Kampong's (property in Coconut Grove, Florida that was once home or Dr. David Fairchild) famous baobob tree planted by Dr.`Fairchild in 1928. This tree was knocked down for the fourth time - Cleo in 1964, Andrew in 1992, Wilma in 2005 and now Irma. In looking for the 75 ton crane to upright this behemoth , the director of the Kampong told the crane company they needed one to handle a tree the size of a humpback whale.
So, for your orchard, remember that annual or biannual pruning may help you avoid a whale of problem.