By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, we will soon be entering our most hazardous season here in Florida — the hurricane season. You probably don’t need to be reminded.

Unfortunately we are perhaps more vulnerable to our fears than usual. I’ll explain. I’ve recently seen what I think is unusual activity by tree companies from out of town. Take note — not our local companies. Their representatives have been going house to house, at least where there are large trees on the properties, and several households have used these companies’ services. One large street tree, a very healthy looking magnolia, has been felled. While I cannot and do not claim to know the condition of that particular tree, generally the southern magnolia is one of the strongest, long lived trees we have, and stands strong in our storms.

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One company representative called on my elderly neighbor, and gave her a high price to remove a double-trunked hickory about which she has some concerns. They were told categorically that their services weren’t needed, but then returned with a lower price. Avoid companies that employ high pressure tactics. This is not good business practice. 

As with any potentially expensive service, do get several quotes from reputable companies that have built up good reputations in our community. They should employ a qualified, registered arborist who will have the knowledge to judge the safety or otherwise of your tree(s) and give you a detailed written proposal and a price for any services that are needed. They will be insured and have evidence to show you.

Don’t just take my word for this. Check out these articles, which our Urban Forester at the Extension Service, Larry Figart, sent me for my own education: and

Wow — our weather. At the end of March our temperatures were breaking records, reaching as high as those we expect in high summer. As someone who is often behind in yard work, I’ve been trying to work earlier in the day, and drink water before I feel thirsty. Sunscreen and hats are the order of the day. If you can, work in clothes made of light-colored tightly woven fabric that cover your limbs. For us older folks, take a rest when you feel like it, and take your work slow and steady. It will leave you feeling like you’ve had some oh-so-important exercise, not having run a half marathon!

There is still time to plant summer vegetables and annual flowers to brighten our days: see If you have time on your hands because you’re staying home, why not use that time to get growing?  New growth from shrubby perennials can be used as cuttings to grow (propagate) more plants. For information on propagation, see

Like many city services, our Extension Services have been adjusted, with our office and walk-in consultations suspended until further notice due to COVID-19. If you need “in-person” assistance, our office has set up a virtual horticultural consultation system to reach us. It’s very cool! To begin, click on and follow the instructions. There are half-hour slots on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, depending on availability.

Master Gardener Volunteers are also more than willing to help via email. Contact us at You can also find us on Facebook at

Stay safe, everyone.

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