Keeping your trees in shape

Trees add a lot to your home. They provide a place for wildlife to live. They provide shade, which helps your utility bills stay lower in the summer. They can help prevent or limit soil erosion. And there’s no better place in the world for a tire swing.

The good news is that mature trees don’t need a lot of help – usually. The bad news is that when they do, you’ll usually need to enlist the help of an arborist to save them.

While trees are perfectly nice things to have in your yard, they can also require maintenance to help them. Healthy trees will sometimes die due to pest or disease infestation; however, in a suburban setting, they are more likely to be damaged due to environmental, mechanical, or chemical stress.

  • Environmental stress – drought conditions, excess soil moisture, too little sunlight, extremely cold temperatures, poor soil quality, and soil compaction
  • Mechanical stress – damage from lawn equipment or improper pruning practices and construction damage of severed roots or trunk wounds
  • Chemical stress – over-fertilization and de-icing salt contamination

When to prune
Pruning is necessary to keep the tree safe for our sake and for its own sake because nature didn’t put them where they are; we did. So, occasionally, they need some TLC.

You should prune trees only when it is necessary for structure, health, and safety purposes.

When does your tree need care? Look for these warning signs:

  • Dead, dying or diseased branches.
  • Branches that cross one another, which rubs the bark off and makes the tree susceptible to disease entry.
  • Sprouts forming at the base of the tree’s trunk can be a sign that the tree is injured and is redirecting its energy.
  • Remove vines, turf, or competing vegetation surrounding the tree’s trunk.
  • A tight-angled V shape between the limb and the tree can indicate a weak point in the tree. Examine to see if the bark grows inward instead of outward.
  • Look for nearly vertical branches that compete to be the main trunk of the tree. If they grow large enough they can split off, which can damage the tree or anything underneath it, including your home or vehicle.
  • You’ll need to trim back any nuisance growth, which occurs when a tree interferes with sidewalks, roadways, or utility lines.

One thing you should never do is “top” a tree. Topping removes far too much food producing vegetation and leaves the tree in an extremely stressed state. The sprouts produced after topping are the tree’s attempt to produce enough sugars to overcome the stress. While the tree may continue to live for a time, it will be far more susceptible to disease.

Pruning can be dangerous, to you and the tree. Take safety precautions and make sure that you’re using the right tool for the job. If there is any question as to whether or not you’re able to complete the task safely, it’s a good idea to hire a professional.

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