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This month’s Tree Tip was written and researched by the newest member of the Woodland Tree sales team, Britt Hubbard, ISA Certified Arborist #SO-5792A and Forester. He may be contacted directly via email with any questions concerning this article or any tree related issues.
The past weekend’s winter storm blanketed much of the mid-south with over a quarter inch of ice. Ice can wreak havoc on trees. Ice accumulation can increase the weight of a tree by 30 times or more. When a tree is loaded with ice, any defects to the tree – such as decay, cracks, included bark, broken branches – exacerbates tree failure. Damage done to trees not only reduces the aesthetic appeal, but also creates large wounds on the tree and potentially hazardous situations due to weakened or detached limbs hanging in the tree canopy. As the ice melts away and it is safer to walk around, it is important for tree owners to visually inspect trees for damage and get trees pruned accordingly. A strategy to keep in mind is to prune for safety first, tree health second, and tree aesthetics third.
Safety is the first consideration in removing branches from storm damaged trees. Branches hanging over power lines are a major safety hazard from the standpoint of both the person removing the branches, as well as any passers-by. Special training is required to safely prune these branches. Homeowners should not attempt to prune branches near, or lying on power lines. Contact your local power company or a professional tree-care service trained in electrical line clearance to have these branches removed.
Hangers and are the next obvious safety concern. Hangers are detached or loosely attached limbs in the crown of the tree, which can fall without warning. They should be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid personal injury and/or property damage. Trees and limbs too large to handle from the ground should be pruned only by professional tree-care service.
Suspect limbs may be apparent with the accumulated ice. Heavily bowed limbs and limbs close to the breaking point may need to be reduced to prevent future breakage. This is especially important for large limbs hanging over structure or areas frequented by people and pets.
After hazardous situations have been addressed, trees can be pruned for tree health and for aesthetic appeal. Corrective cuts should be made on stubs remaining from broken branches. The corrective cuts reduce surface area of a wound and encourage the trees own defenses to reduce decay and fungi from entering the tree and prevent hazardous situations in the future. To improve tree aesthetics, trimmers can balance and shape the crown of the tree to match one side of a tree to another or one tree to another.
While inspecting for ice storm damage, tree owners should also look for opportunities to have their trees pruned to reduce damage from spring storms. The absence of foliage on trees this time of year makes it easier for tree owners and arborists to see potential problems and allows tree crews to work quicker. Arborists employ several pruning techniques including cleaning, thinning, and reduction that can prevent many problems associated with spring storms.
Cleaning removes waterspouts, and dead, diseased, crossing, and hazardous branches from trees. Most trees can benefit from cleaning, which improves overall tree health and appearance and greatly reduces falling debris due to windy storms and heavy rainfall.
Thinning is selective pruning to reduce the density of live branches. Thinning allows wind to pass through the crown with less resistance and is very useful to reduce the possibility of windthrow. Trees with large crowns and trees on exposed sites are prime candidates for thinning.
Reduction is selective pruning to decrease height and/or crown spread by removing specified branches. Relative to spring storms, reduction cuts can be used similarly to thinning in order to reduce the possibility of windthrow. Reduction cuts can also be used to clear limbs and branches away from houses and other property that could be damaged by failing or rubbing branches due to strong winds.
Whether pruning for ice storm recovery or spring storm preparedness, the arborists at Woodland Tree Service are more than happy to help devise and implement the best strategies to reduce hazards, maintain health, and improve aesthetics of your trees.
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