Time is right for inspecting, pruning bare trees
BY World Special Publications
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Leaves are now on the ground, but trees still need attention. The dormant season is actually a good time to inspect most non-flowering trees for potential hazards and to prune them accordingly.
Trees are dormant in the winter, making pruning easier because you can better see a tree’s structure when no leaves are on the branches. Without leaves, it is easier to spot dead or broken branches that need to be removed to help avoid breakage from harsh winter weather.
Deciding what to prune and where involves an understanding of basic tree biology, sharp tools, and an artful eye. The International Society of Arboriculture offers practical suggestions for reducing the likelihood your trees will not fall victim to Mother Nature’s unpredictable temperament.
“Recognizing and reducing tree hazards not only increases the safety of your property and that of your neighbors, but also improves the tree’s health and may increase its longevity,” said Jim Skiera, executive director of ISA.
Beware of potential hazards. Being aware of problems before they present themselves could spare you money in repairs. Survey your property for trees that show signs of decay. ISA suggests looking for these signs of instability:
• Cracks in the trunks of major limbs;
• Hollow, aged and decayed trees;
• Conks on trunk or mushrooms at the base of the tree;
• Dead branches;
• Carpenter ants, honey bees, woodpeckers and other animals which live in decayed or hollow trees; and
• One-sided or significantly leaning trees.
Take action to remedy potential targets. Inspect your trees for branches that could cause damage to your property before a storm hits, including:
• Branches that hang over the house, near the roof.
• Branches in close proximity to power lines.
Take precautions to prevent damage. Once problems have been detected, a proactive approach to tackling them is advised:
• Remove dead, diseased or damaged limbs.
• Consider removing trees with large cavities of decay.
• Leaning trees may indicate a root problem so have them inspected.
• Branches too close to your house, a building or the street should be pruned to provide clearance.
• Branches that are too close or touching utility lines need to be pruned or removed. If this work is needed, report it to your local utility company. Do not prune the tree yourself.
Know your tree species. Some species are more inclined to storm damage. An ISA Certified Arborist will have the knowledge necessary to determine which trees have the hardiness needed to withstand harsh weather conditions.
Do not top your trees. Untrained individuals may urge you to cut back all of the branches, on the mistaken assumption that it will help avoid breakage in future storms. However, ISA Certified Arborists warn against the dangers of “topping,” the cutting back of main branches to a predetermined point without regard to the tree’s natural structure. The stubs that remain are not strong enough to grow back as a single, dominant branch. Instead, a flush of regrowth surrounds the stub. Trees that have been topped are also prone to internal decay. While healthy trees are able to seal wounds that careful pruning leaves, topping leaves a tree with many severe wounds that it is unable to properly compartmentalize, resulting in deterioration.