Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Sea Grape Tree

September 18th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff

Too Hot to Do This

I haven’t been able to do much in the way of gardening for the last month or so. The heat and humidity in south Florida in the summer is oppressive. Most yard work is delayed until the end of November when the weather is much more bearable.

However, today I had to bite the bullet and trim the beautiful sea grape tree in my front yard.

Sea Grape tree leaves

Sea Grape Leaves

Our yard maintenance guy came, and I had to move my car to keep it from being sprayed with grass clippings. I parked under a very old and very beautiful sea grape tree. I was parked two feet out from curb, and I still hit my mirror on a tree branch. This  pruning job couldn’t wait two more months.

The Old Lady of the Manor

This 30-foot tall sea grape tree is a treasure… old, beautiful and has multiple trunks that are 10 to 12 inches in diameter. It is at least 75 years old. Most of the trees on this property were planted when the house was built in 1937. I think this tree may be older, though. It sits at the very edge of the property near the street. That would be an odd place to plant a tree, so my guess is that the tree was already here when the house was built.

Serious Wind Damage

The sea grape grows branches everywhere on the trunk and limbs, and it grows them fast. Besides being an inconvenient parking obstacle, this much additional foliage creates a thick canopy and a serious hurricane issue for the tree. This tree was pretty much shredded during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

wind damaged Sea Grape tree

Sea Grape tree damaged during Hurricane Wilma.

The canopy had grown so thick, wind couldn’t blow through. Limbs 8 to 10 inches in diameter were twisted, shredded and ripped off. Many were left hanging by a strip of bark.

hurricane cleanup

Sea Grape Limbs after Hurricane Wilma

There was so much damage, that the pile of tree limbs that had to be removed was 6 feet high and 20 feet long.

Arborists Do the Pruning

Since 2005, we have been more vigilant about managing the canopies in our trees. In February, we had an arborist  prune several of the large trees on our property, including the sea grape.

pruning Sea Grape tree

Pruning Sea Grape Tree

Sea Grape Growing Habits

Sea grapes are found all over the coastal areas of south Florida, and most of them are bushes rather than trees. The nature of sea grapes is to grow new branches that spread the plant.  It becomes more of a 6-foot tall hedge than a single tall tree, and tree suckers grow fast.

base of tree

Base of Sea Grape Tree

Rows of cut tree suckers can be seen along the base of my tree. They have to be cut continually, or I’d have a hedge instead of a tree.

To control the fullness of the canopy, the tree suckers that appear all over the tree have to be removed regularly, and today was the day. There were new tree suckers from the ground all the way up the branches.

overgrown Sea Grape tree

Tree Suckers on Sea Grape Tree

I managed to cut most of the suckers around the bottom, but I had to enlist the help of neighbor Bill to get the ones that were higher than I could reach even with a ladder.

pruning Sea Grape tree

Removing Tree Suckers

Finished. Looks good!

trimmed SeaGrape tree

Pruned Sea Grape Tree

It took about half an hour to get the job done, and the resulting tree looks almost as good as it did after the professionals were finished in February. On the other hand, it was hot, hot, hot, and I was drenched in sweat and totally wrung out. I walked straight from the tree to the pool. Wet is wet, regardless of the attire. Once I got cooled down, I had three glasses of iced tea followed by a nap.








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