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Why limbs fall in your yard

Travel around a neighborhood after a storm and you will see tree limbs, large and small, scattered about the ground. Why do some limbs fall in high winds or after ice storms while others merely bend? Should you worry about that large limb overhanging your driveway?

“One reason trees fail is weak branch unions,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA (board certified master arborist) and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. “Homeowners can educate themselves about tree limbs, but they should call a professional arborist if they are worried about an overhanging branch.”

Trees may suffer from naturally formed imperfections that can lead to branch failure at the union of the branch and main stem. There are two types imperfections that create weak unions: a branch union with included bark and an epicormic branch.

Weak unions
Branch unions can be characterized as strong or weak. Strong branch unions have upturned branch bark ridges at branch junctions. Annual rings of wood from the branch grow together with annual rings of wood from the stem, creating a sound, strong union all the way into the center of the tree.
A weak branch union occurs when a branch and stem (or two or more co-dominant stems) grow so closely together that bark grows between them, inside the tree. The term for bark growing inside the tree is “included bark.” As more and more bark is included inside the tree, the weak union is formed that is more likely to fail.

In storm damage surveys conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Forest Resources Department, 21 percent of all landscape trees that failed in windstorms failed at weak branch unions of co-dominant stems. Some species are notorious for having included bark: European mountain ash, green ash, hackberry, boxelder, willow, red maple, silver maple, Amur maple, cherry and littleleaf linden.

Epicormic branches
Epicormic branches (also called water sprouts) are formed as a response to poor pruning practices, injury or environmental stress. Epicormic branches are new branches that replaced injured, pruned or declining branches. Commonly, epicormic branches form on the stems and branches of topped trees. When old, large epicormic branches are growing on decaying stems or branches, the epicormics are very likely to fail.

Epicormic branches, by their very nature, form weak unions because they are shallowly attached instead of being attached all the way to the center of the stem. Epicormic branches grow very quickly so they become heavy very quickly. After a time they lose their connection to the main branch and may fall to the ground because the underlying wood cannot support their weight.

“If a weak union is also cracked, cankered or decayed, the union is likely to fail, causing the branch to fall off the tree,” says Andersen. “Sometimes, ridges of bark and wood will form on one or both sides of a weakened branch union in order to stabilize the union. The branch is very likely to fail when a crack forms between the ridges.”

 

Information reprinted with permission from TCIA. Wyoming Tree Care is a proud member of TCIA.

Fall Is a Great Time to Mulch

“I know we‚Äôre supposed to do something to our trees in the fall, but what?” Tree owners often feel compelled to spray, prune or apply something to their trees and landscape plants on a regular basis. But, unless there is a specific reason to spray, prune or apply things to landscape trees, the best thing to “do” to keep your trees healthy would be to apply a layer of mulch.

“Fall is a great time to be out in the yard spreading shovels-full of composted woodchip mulch under your trees,” says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. “Trees with mulched root zones are usually larger, more vigorous, develop faster and have higher rates of survival than plants surrounded by turf grass or bare dirt. Mulches retain soil moisture and reduce erosion and soil compaction.”

Mulched trees also have fewer weeds, which reduces the need for the roots to compete for limited resources. The soil under the mulch also likely stays warmer longer into the winter and also warms faster in the spring, helping extend the growing season for plants.

Organic mulches are a favorite among professional arborists, who view wood chips as an excellent, attractive mulch for trees. Other organic mulches include bark chips, ground bark, composted lawn clippings, leaves and straw. These mulches are high in cellulose and low in nitrogen, and should be free of weed seeds.

Good Mulching

How Wide is Wide? A good mulch bed should extend out at least three feet from a tree’s trunk in all directions, though extending out to the dripline is preferred. The fine, absorbing tree roots extend

out into the soil, and mulch provides many health-related benefits for those roots. Keep organic mulches several inches away from the base of the tree to avoid rot and diseases.

How Deep is Deep? The mulch bed depth should be maintained at 2 to 4 inches.

Go Ahead, Cover the Grass! If there is grass in the area that needs to be mulched, put a five-page layer of newspaper over the grass, get it wet, then add mulch on top (this will help keep the grass from growing up through the mulch).

Use the Right Mulch. For poor soils, use well-composted mulch to build up the nutrients. Soils that are healthy will do fine with a highly stable softwood bark (such as cypress bark), which doesn’t break down as easily.

Bad Mulching

No Volcanoes, Please! The biggest no-no when mulching is to create a “mulch volcano” that is piled high around the base of the tree. This practice traps moisture around the tree trunk and root flare leading to decay and, eventually, structural failure.

Avoid Fine Mulch. Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and prevent the penetration of water and air.

Don‚Äôt Let Mulch Sour. Low oxygen levels (from packed-down mulch) creates a toxic “sour” mulch ‚Äì which may give off pungent odors, and even worse, the compounds produced (methanol and acetic acid) can kill young plants.

Don’t Keep Adding New Mulch on Top of the Old. While mulch does decompose, you do not want to accumulate excessive mulch year after year by adding fresh mulch every spring. If you want the look of fresh mulch, break up the old with a rake, and only add a layer of new on top if there is less than 4 inches in depth.

Find a Professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine whether your trees and shrubs would benefit from pruning. Wyoming Tree Care is a proud member of the TCIA.

This article is reprinted with membership permission from the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

 

Beautiful spring weather entices us to be outside in our landscapes and gardens. We take stock of which plants are looking good and which plants seem to need a little help. It is natural to want to “do” something to help a tree ‚Äì prune it, fertilize it, polish it ‚Äì we can‚Äôt help wanting to touch it in some way.
Pruning is an oft needed maintenance treatment for good tree health, and to keep your tree and yard safe and looking good, but pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline.
In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single season, and if the tree cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed. When determining how much pruning your tree can tolerate, an arborist may consider if the tree:

  • is healthy
  • is still growing rapidly or has matured and slowed its growth
  • had its roots severed or damaged recently or in the past
  • suffers from disease
  • is a species tolerant of heavy pruning

A good arborist will work with you to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done). Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

  • reduce risk of damage to people or property
  • manage tree health
  • provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
  • improve structure
  • increase or improve aesthetics
  • restore shape

Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how to prune your trees, without harming them, to get the desired result.

These questions can be overwhelming to those not familiar with shade and ornamental tree pruning. A qualified tree care expert trained in tree and woody plant health care can answer these questions, as well as help you with your tree pruning goals. Make sure to ask for tree pruning to be done according to ANSI A300 standards.

Find a professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine whether your trees and shrubs would benefit from pruning. Wyoming Tree Care is a proud member of the TCIA.
 

 
This article is reprinted with membership permission from the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).
 

 

 

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Winter storms cause tremendous stress and severe damage to trees in the urban forest. Obviously, a snapped or downed tree should be removed. What about a tree that suffers minor damage? How can a homeowner tell if a tree is safe?

Assessing the damage

Minor damage – with only the smallest branches of the tree being injured – usually results in little or no permanent injury to the tree. All that is required is cleanup of the broken twigs and branches and perhaps a crown cleaning to restore a pleasing shape.

More severe damage ‚Äì large broken branches, split crotches, removal of bark and splitting or splintering of the trunk ‚Äì can be caused by strong winds and heavy ice storms. When a tree is severely damaged, the first question that must be answered is: “Is the condition of the tree such that keeping it is worthwhile?” A tree care professional should be consulted to answer this question.

“Most arborists will take the time and effort to save a tree only if the tree will still be healthy, attractive and of value to the property owner after repairs,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association. “A tree care expert may recommend removal of a tree that has brittle wood and a branch structure that makes it vulnerable to additional damage from future storms. Trees that have been topped by storms can be prime candidates for removal,” says Andersen.

Other factors to consider when determining if a tree is worth saving:

  • Species ‚Äì Is this type of tree prone to pests and other problems?
  • Age ‚Äì Is the tree mature or over-mature?
  • Vigor ‚Äì What health condition was the tree in before the damage?
  • Value it adds to the property ‚Äì Does the tree still have value, even if partially damaged?
  • Sentimental value ‚Äì Is the tree a living monument?

If a tree is not worth saving, remove it as soon as possible. If it is not removed and the tree dies, it could become a hazard tree. Removal of hazard trees is dangerous to the tree care crew and requires special techniques, adding to the cost.

Treating the tree

Assuming the decision has been made to repair the tree, the next question is: “Am I capable of repairing the damage myself or should I seek professional help?” Major repair will undoubtedly require the use of a chain saw and climbing equipment. Unless one is experienced in the use of such equipment and comfortable working off the ground, it would be best to have the work performed by a competent professional. The Tree Care Industry Association maintains a list of member companies in your area. Inspect your trees for damage after a storm. If a tree has hazards, such as broken, hanging limbs or a split branch union (sometimes called a branch fork), you should have a reputable tree care company give an assessment. This is important because you could be held liable if the hazard branch or tree falls and damages property or causes personal injury.

What should you do?

Homeowners who would like a professional arborist to assess their trees should contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. It has more than 2,000 member companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance.  Wyoming Tree Care is a proud member of TCIA.

This article is reprinted with membership permission from the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

Ever wondered about the trees located in your yard and neighborhood?

Those living in the Pacific Northwest are fortunate to have excellent resources at our finger tips. One of my favorite websites is offered through Wyoming State University, College of Forestry - it is not only informative for our local community, it is my alma mater and thus I am proud to promote the Power of Orange.

The specific link, Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest, allows you to search through common and scientific names of a tree and complete with detailed descriptions and photos.

Republished with the permission of the International Society of Arboriculture

Top 10 Myths of Tree Care

Should you prune your trees in the Spring? How deep must fertilizer be applied to reach the roots of your trees? Which species of trees should be topped to keep them from falling on your house? Most homeowners treasure the trees on their property but know little about how to care for them. Much of what you may have heard about tree care is actually incorrect, based on myths and misconceptions. Here are the top 10 myths of tree care.

MYTH #1: When a tree is planted it should be securely staked to ensure the development of a stable root system and a strong trunk. Although it is sometimes necessary to stake trees to keep them upright and allow establishment, there are some adverse effects of staking. Compared to staked trees, unstaked trees tend to develop a more extensive root system and better trunk taper. Allowing a small amount of movement can help root and trunk development. Of course, the worst effect of staking is the possibility of trunk damage from the staking wires or ties. Staking materials usually should be removed after one year to avoid “girdling” the tree.
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