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Check for Dead and Damaged Trees

Keep your living investments healthy this winter with proper pruning   
by Peter R. Landau, ISA Certified Arborist, arbor1dude@aol.com  
Winter is a great time to inspect and prune your trees. They have shed their leaves and their structure is visible. The likelihood of spreading tree diseases is minimal during the winter and the impact of pruning is also minimized while the tree is dormant. The tree branch structure is easy to see and mark for pruning. Broken, cracked, or hanging limbs are also easy to see and remove.
Tree failure is a major cause of property damage. Winter weather can cause trees and tree parts with structural defects to fail. Defects include: co-dominant stems, which are weakly attached and can split; cavities, which reduce the strength and increase the potential for failure; and cracks, which reduce the load that can be sustained. During storms pre-existing defects predispose trees to failure. Homeowners should have a qualified arborist inspect their trees to identify trees with structural defects and provide options for mitigating those risks.
Pruning is best done after the leaves have fallen off. This allows the tree to store the energy and starches that were produced by photosynthesis in the roots and woody parts of the tree. When pruning, have a clear purpose in mind. Removing dead or diseased wood, providing clearance, or improving structure are common goals. Pruning trees can be dangerous. Consider calling a professional. Improper pruning can cause permanent damage, create structural defects, and make a tree more susceptible to disease.
Winter usually brings us snow and ice. The deicing salts used on walkways, driveways, parking lots, and the roads can be detrimental to tree health. Here are a couple of tips. Use sand or other abrasives mixed with salt to reduce the amount of salt. Use alternatives such as calcium magnesium acetate and calcium chloride. Protect your trees from the spray from plow trucks.
Evergreen foliage can be damaged by salt. As the salt leaches into the tree’s roots it can cause severe damage, even plant mortality. Plant salt-resistant trees. Improve soil drainage. Add organic matter to the soil to help filter salt. In the spring, irrigating to leach out the salts can also help.
It is important, along with the recommendations above, to keep your trees healthy. Assessing your trees and determining their needs is the first step to having structurally stable and healthy trees. Severe winters can take their toll on trees and landscape plants. Taking steps to improve their environment and reduce their risk of failure will ensure their longevity and improve our environment. Visit Treesaregood.org to locate ISA Certified Arborists.