Ice Damage and Other Tree Damage to Check for in the Spring
When you plant a tree in your landscape, you expect it to be an asset to your home for a long time to come. Ice damage and other natural and human-created problems can significantly impact a tree’s health. That’s why it’s important to spend time researching your options and selecting a tree that suits your property and needs.
Of course, planting is only the beginning. Like everything in your home, your trees need maintenance to thrive and grow. If you neglect them, they can easily become a liability, one that can pose a serious risk to your family and your home.
Damaged trees can quickly become hazardous if you don’t take necessary precautions throughout the years. While a limb can fall and merely be a nuisance, if the entire tree is uprooted and topples over, it can be a serious threat, causing property damage, injury, or even death.
While you should check for tree damage throughout the year, especially after significant storms blow through the Pacific Northwest, it’s equally important to take a few minutes in the springtime for an annual maintenance check. Springtime is when your tree comes to life. It’s also the best time to trim away hazardous material and get it in top shape for the growing season ahead.
What Causes Tree Damage?
Trees are living, growing organisms that take in a lot from the surrounding environment to survive. And while a perfect environment would ensure the tree’s survival rate for years—decades—perfect conditions rarely exist. Even the mildest of winters can lead to extreme springs—March winds can cause significant damage.
Part of protecting your trees from damage is understanding what causes it. Damage comes from both natural and human causes; here’s what to look for:
●Age—Mature trees are more likely to have declining health and be more susceptible to ice damage and other issues.
●Size—The bigger the tree, the larger the branches, the more damage they can cause when they fall.
●Shape—If a tree isn’t properly pruned as a young tree, it’s more likely to be unbalanced and top-heavy in different sections of the tree.
●Weather—Not only are wind, rain, snow, and ice a factor in damaging trees, but sun, heat, and drought play roles too.
●Changes—As you make changes around your home, your tree is impacted too. Have you renovated your home? Added a new addition? Changed the grade of your yard? Any changes can impact the health of your tree.
●Neglect—If a tree doesn’t receive proper care from the time it’s planted, it might not be as healthy as one that has.
●Environment—Chemical spills, runoff from hazardous materials, such as oil, paint, or gasoline, even toxic fumes from nearby fires, can impact the health of a tree.
Assess the Danger
Whether you’re checking a tree for damage after a storm or simply making a routine check as part of your springtime house cleaning, it’s essential to assess the damage before taking action.
Some things you can fix yourself. Some things are better left to the professionals.
Before going near a tree with ice damage or other tree damage, take a close look at the surrounding area first.
Is the tree near a power line? Whether the tree limbs are currently touching power lines or run the risk of making contact with them if you cut a branch or attempt to take it down, it’s better left to the professionals.
Does the tree or its limbs pose a risk to roads, driveways, houses, or other property? By taking down certain limbs, you can significantly change the structure of the tree. That can dislodge other problem limbs and cause even more damage. If you’re working around personal property, that can put you at higher risk.
If you’re not sure about the stability of the tree or the risk it poses if you take down ice damage or other problem areas of a tree, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
Clean It Up
The faster you react to damage, the greater chance you have of helping your tree survive and thrive. Ice damage, for instance, can cause significant damage to a tree. Not only can it break a branch, but it can also strip away bark as it pulls away from the trunk.
Pulling the branch can hurt the tree even further, especially if healthy bark is stripped away from the trunk. In this case, the sooner you remove the impacted branch, the better. And you should always use a three-step approach. First, cut the branch from underneath, one to two feet away from the trunk. Then move to the top of the branch, cutting one to two inches at a time. Continue cutting until the branch drops free. Then take care to remove the affected bark in such a way that it leaves as much of the healthy bark in place as possible. The wound should resemble an elongated football, with the cut running vertically along the trunk of the tree.
Of course, if you don’t have any experience trimming back your trees in this manner, your best course of action is to let a professional handle the process. The more you take care after significant damage has occurred, the better chance your tree has of surviving.
While every step should be carefully thought out after damage has occurred to ensure your trees stay healthy, prevention is always your best course of action. If your trees are healthy, they are at less risk.
To avoid wind, storm, snow, and ice damage, it’s best to inspect a tree and address issues like:
●Trees with more than one leader—this is the main stem that reaches to the sky
●Branch crotches—the V-shaped branches create by connecting to the trunk
Proper pruning should be performed to address these issues and more. And if significant problems are found, it may be prudent to remove the tree before bad weather sets in. If a tree is considered dangerous, the only way to fix it is to remove it.
How healthy are your trees? Have they received ice damage over the winter season? Are they in good shape as we move into the summer? Maybe it’s time to add tree pruning to your spring maintenance list to ensure they stay healthy all year long.