Preventative care is the buzz word when it comes to our health, why not the health of our trees, too?
High winds and inclement weather can damage trees, especially ones that have compromised heath to begin with. Damage to homes and other structures is always possible if you have unhealthy tress in your midst.
Consider this: perhaps the expense of an assessment by a certified arborist is worth it after all if a little pruning, thinning, or cabling will save a tree from damage.
Healthy trees will lean, snap, fall and split during severe storms, there’s no arguing that, but there are some things we can do to increase the chances of an otherwise healthy tree making it through a severe storm with the least amount of damage possible.
Note, please, that I am addressing generally healthy trees not trees in decline, with dead or decaying wood, dead crowns, etc. These trees will fail in one way or another during severe storms so get them removed so they don’t cause problems later.
The general rule of thumb, of course, is to select species that are not prone to storm damage (i.e., the infamous Bradford pear, wind cannot move through its tight canopy, so it rips it apart instead). Most trees will withstand severe winds if they are pruned properly as they grow, encourage one central leader for most species and train the scaffolding branches of the tree in an upward spiral, spaced to allow good air movement when high winds do present themselves.
Healthy trees can still have little quirks that may make them vulnerable. For example, trees with large canopies may blow over in high winds if the soil is saturated from prolonged periods of rain. Lush canopies, co-dominate stems (competing main leaders) and included bark (as two branches grow bark is enclosed in the crotch) at the crotch of a tree may make branches more susceptible to splitting. In the case of species that are typically multi-branched from the main trunk included bark can be a problem. In this case cabling can be employed to add extra support while still allowing adequate flexing of large branches during growth.
Certified arborists are professional healthcare providers for our trees. They can assess the health of a tree, its structure and any of its minor flaws and make the appropriate adjustments. In some cases, this adjustment may be removal to the ground; removal of dead or diseased parts of the tree; a little canopy thinning; or cabling for added support.
Proper structural pruning of young trees can be done by the homeowner just do your homework to be sure you are up to date on proper pruning techniques. Our County Extension Services are an excellent source of information on the how, when, and why of pruning. For mature trees that may be showing signs of stress calling in a certified arborist really is a smart idea.
We have several large shade trees that have included bark and twisted branches cabled to reinforce these weak spots; but this could have been avoided if the trees were properly pruned 30 years ago to avoid these problems.
Trees are valuable to our landscapes in so many ways, but we do not want them to end up falling through the living room ceiling! Pay attention to their health as you would your own.