With hurricane season upon us, evidence of preparation is all around us.
Tree trimmers, contracted by the local electrical utility companies, have been removing trees, branches and other vegetation that is “too close” to power lines. Many homeowners are concerned over the practice.
In order to prevent power outages, the federally approved Vegetation Management Reliability Standard, FAC-033-2, requires utilities to manage vegetation growth along the path of power lines to prevent contact. A minimum clearance of fourteen (14) feet between trees and transmission lines in the right-of-way must be maintained at all times in order to achieve service reliability and public safety.
By Florida Statute 163, an electric utility is granted easement or right-of-way on private property in order to build and maintain electric power lines. Vegetation maintenance allows for the mowing of vegetation within the right-of-way, removal of trees or brush within the right-of-way and selective removal of tree branches that extend within the right-of-way by the electric utility personnel, licensed contractors or International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborists. The choice of how to trim trees and manage vegetation growth near a power line (e.g. pruning, herbicides, or tree removal) is primarily made by the electric utility, subject to state and local requirements and laws, applicable safety codes, and any limitations or obligations specified in right-of-way agreements. An individual may contact the utility company to obtain a copy of the right-of-way agreement for their property.
Sometimes, it appears to some that excessive vegetation has been removed. But, remember the utility companies are required to maintain the appropriate clearance “at all times.” For example, in the summer, power lines sag as they expand from rising air temperatures and heavy use. Also, wind and future growth must be taken into account when determining where to prune. Electric utilities usually prune or remove vegetation to a distance greater than the minimum clearances to account for all these factors.
Tree trimming around power lines may seem like a local issue, but vegetation growth also affects interstate transmission lines. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electric utility service interruptions cost businesses and communities tens of billions of dollars annually. Tree contact with transmission lines was the leading cause of the August 2003 blackout that affected 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada. In fact, that particular blackout prompted Congress to pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to establish the Vegetation Management Reliability Standard.
Should we have a storm that impacts Northwest Florida, remember that the clearing of trees and branches provides faster access for first responders, line repair crews, and other emergency service personnel. So, as you watch the preparation work being done, think about where you will be planting a tree so that it can reach full maturity without threatening power lines, therefore, not requiring “ugly pruning!”
Crapemyrtle flowering has been spectacular this year!
While most other garden plants droop from summer’s heat, humidity and heavy rains, crapemyrtle thrives and puts on an outstanding show of flowers all summer and fall. Thanks to modern breeders, there are all sizes of improved hybrid crapemyrtles with flower colors of lavender, purple, white, pink, or red.
Crapemyrtle Cultivar: ‘Tonto’
Image Credit: Gary Knox
Just say “No” to Pruning
- Crapemyrtle varieties come in tree-size, patio tree and shrub categories.
Tree-size crapemyrtles grow 25 ft. tall and are ideal as flowering trees. Patio tree-form plants (up to 12 ft.) are beautiful as small, flowering specimen plants near patios, walkways, and entrances. Shrub forms (up to 6 ft.) make excellent accents in a shrub border and smaller types are effective as large groundcovers or container plants.
Crapemyrtle Cultivar: ‘Red Rocket’
Image Credit: Gary Knox
- Make sure you buy the right size crapemyrtle for your home. Don’t make the mistake of planting a tree-size crapemyrtle in an area too small for its ultimate size, or you’ll find yourself pruning it hard – and often – to keep it from out-growing its place.
Crapemyrtle Cultivar: ‘Sioux’
Image Credit: Gary Knox
- Some of the best tree-size (25 ft.) types are Natchez (white), Red Rocket® (red), Sioux (pink) and Apalachee (lavender). Superior patio tree crapemyrtles (12 ft.) are Acoma (white), Cheyenne (true red), Tonto (fuchsia red), Hopi (pink) and Catawba (purple). Smaller shrub (6 ft.) crapemyrtles are hard to find, but Cherry Dazzle® is a nice mounding red and Pixie White and New Orleans (purple) are good selections.
Planting and Garden Care
- When it comes to planting, crapemyrtle is very tolerant and forgiving with three exceptions. First, crapemyrtle needs sun to flower freely, so plant it in a site receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Secondly, crapemyrtle will not grow in wet soils. Finally, never plant crapemyrtle too deep — if you do so, it will punish you by not flowering for years and years. Planting too deep literally smothers the roots, requiring the crapemyrtle to regenerate a new root system in the soil above.
- Crapemyrtle is very drought tolerant and almost seems to thrive on neglect. On the other hand, regular watering and fertilizer will help crapemyrtle grow faster and bigger.
Crapemyrtle Cultivar: ‘Acoma’
Image Credit: Gary Knox
More Beauty on the Way!
- Breeders are continuing to improve and introduce new crapemyrtles. Many new varieties were released in the last couple years. In particular, watch for new types with purple-burgundy leaf color all summer long! Time will tell which new ones grow best in Northwest Florida. Stay tuned as the world of crapemyrtle continues to evolve and improve!
*Gary Knox is Professor of Environmental Horticulture with the University of Florida. He is stationed at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, where he evaluates more than 100 cultivars of crapemyrtle.
Few things move a local homeowner into action faster than a big storm moving into the Gulf of Mexico. After filling up at gas stations and running out to home improvement stores, many start trimming limbs and removing trees.
The destructive tornadoes in the Midwest this spring may cause anxiety about having mature trees in a yard. It is true that falling trees and limbs can cause damage to a home and property. However, it is wise to look closely at a landscape before making a permanent decision. It’s also important to do this before the stress of a looming storm is at hand. Trees are very important for providing shade (i.e. energy savings), wildlife habitat, storm-water management, and maintaining property values.
University of Florida / IFAS researchers have done long-term studies on the effects of wind on trees and landscapes, and several important lessons stand out. Keep in mind that reducing storm damage often starts at the landscape design / planning stage!
After a hurricane, piles of vegetative debris are common sights. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson
Below are several tips for protecting your home and landscape in case of a storm.
- Plant high-quality trees with single trunks and strong branches. Branch attachment angles can affect whether a large branch will split from a tree. Branches angling straighter out from a tree (wide angles) are stronger than those pointing almost directly up (tight angles).
“Florida fancy” is the best quality of tree, with quality decreasing to “cull” level. Notice the difference in branch angles and direction between each group. Figure courtesy FDACS, Division of Plant Industry
- Trees that have had regular pruning are less likely to fail than neglected trees. The UF horticulture website has detailed information on correct pruning, or you can contact your County Extension Agent for tips.
- Post-hurricane studies in North Florida show that Live Oak, Southern magnolia, Sabal Palm, and Bald Cypress stand up well compared to other trees during hurricanes. Pecan, Water and Laurel Oak, Carolina Cherry Laurel and Sand Pine were among the least wind resistant. UF has a list of trees and their hurricane endurance based on a study conducted after the 2004 hurricane season.
The classic Southern magnolia tree earns high marks in wind resistance. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson
- Plant a variety of species, ages and layers of trees to maintain diversity in the yard and neighborhood.- Trees with decayed trunks are very dangerous in winds. Disease causing decay can come up from the roots or enter through improper pruning cuts. Remove hazard trees before the wind does. Have a certified arborist inspect trees for signs of disease and decay. They are trained to provide advice on tree health.
- Watch pines carefully. Sometimes there is hidden damage and the tree declines over time. Look for signs of stress or poor health, such as unusual dark stains or small holes on trunks, dropping leaves, or piles of sawdust at the tree’s base. Check closely for insects. Weakened pines may be more susceptible to beetles and diseases. Long-leaf pines often survive storms in our area better than other species.
- Trees in a group (at least five) blow down less frequently than single trees.
- Trees should always be given plenty of room for roots to grow. Roots absorb nutrients, but they are also the anchors for the tree. If large trees are planted without enough space for roots to grow out in all directions, there is a likelihood that the tree may fall during high winds.
- Construction activities within about 20 feet from the trunk of existing trees can cause the tree to blow over more than 10 years later.
- When a tree is removed or dies, plant a new one in its place.
Announcing… an exciting local workshop coordinated and hosted by the FAMU State-Wide Small Farm Programs in collaboration with the Ekanlaunee Seed Exchange, Leon County Extension, and local small farmers
The 2013 Seed Workshop: Saving Seed, Saving Farms, Enabling Sustainability
Sunday, August 11, 2013 from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM (EDT)
FAMU VITICULTURE & SMALL FRUIT RESEARCH CENTER
6505 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308
The 2013 Seed Workshop: Information Directly from FAMU
After 10 years of trying to work it out, FAMU is thrilled to be bringing the internationally-known US seed saving pioneer Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange to Tallahassee to facilitate this capacity building workshop.
Image Credit: FAMU
The workshop will cover all kinds of seeds grown in the southeast region including greens, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, okra, peas, corn, cucumbers, melons, squash, herbs, beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, etc.
During FAMU’s hands-on workshop with Ira on “The Seed” you will learn:
What Is Seed?
Why Seed Saving Matters
Getting Started with Seed Saving
Fundamentals of Good Seed Saving (crossers and selfers, how to promote good seed set, how to maintain your crop’s genetics, isolation, population size and roguing, etc.)
Controlling Pests and Diseases
Dry and Wet Fermentation Seed Processing
Simple Seed Cleaning Techniques
The Business of Growing Seed for Farm and Sale
If you have seed you are trying to save that’s not listed, let us know and we will try to cover it too.
Register by credit card or check at: http://theseedworkshop2013.eventbrite.com/
Registration includes an organic lunch. To reserve a lunch with your workshop seat, please register by 11:55 PM Wednesday 7 AUG. Late registrations will be accepted as space permits — through Eventbrite until 11:55 Friday 9 AUG, and at the door on Sunday 11 AUG — but lunch cannot be guaranteed.
For questions about the workshop or registration, contact: Dr Jennifer Taylor, FAMU StateWide Small Farm Programs/Cooperative Extension, at FAMU.Register@gmail.com