Time to give your landscape a good look

Posted 3/24/18

Now is a great time to give your entire landscape a “once over” especially in light of the recent storms, heavy rains, tornados and hail that we have encountered Damaged trees that are left …

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Time to give your landscape a good look


Now is a great time to give your entire landscape a “once over” especially in light of the recent storms, heavy rains, tornados and hail that we have encountered Damaged trees that are left standing in your landscape or other places on your property for that matter can create potential hazards in the near future in addition to detracting from the beauty and functionality of your landscape.

There are many ways in which an ornamental tree can be damaged during high winds and rain. Primarily we classify the damaged trees as “leaners”, “splitters”, and “hangers”.

Leaners are trees that have been partially uprooted and are leaning to one side or the other. Winds alone can cause this; however, it is more common that heavy rains saturate the ground weakening the tree’s anchoring system and then the wind does the rest. Any tree that is found to be leaning even slightly to one side or the other should be immediately assessed very thoroughly. These are usually best removed from the landscape as they can pose a hazard to both people and buildings.

Large trees that have been uprooted in this manner usually cannot be saved and therefore must be removed. It is possible to correct smaller trees that are leaning or partially uprooted if more than ½ the root system is still in the ground and intact. The displaced roots must also be compact and undisturbed. Before righting the tree, remove some soil from beneath the root mass to allow the roots to fit back into the ground. The trees will need bracing such as guy wires or cables and additional watering for some time while they become re-established. While this can be done successfully (I have a Leyland Cyprus tree that I have successfully straightened after being partially uprooted not once but twice), it is a very expensive and labor intensive job and often requires heavy machinery. You must first evaluate whether the tree is worth the time, money, and effort or should it just be removed and a new tree established.

Cracks and splits often occur when forces of nature such as hurricanes, tornados, and even winds produced by late summer and early fall thunderstorms exert more force on the tree than it can bear. In these cases the structural soundness of the tree has usually been compromised and in many instances the tree should be removed for safety sake. In the home landscape many weak branched trees such as Bradford pears are especially susceptible to this kind of damage. Some split forks or partially cracked branches may be repaired by inserting rods or bolts through the affected areas. Certified arborists trained in performing such procedures should do repairs of this nature. Again, this type of repair is very costly and labor intensive and can only be performed in a few cases such as with very high value trees or trees with immense sentimental value.

Finally, the most common of all storm related damage to landscape trees are what I term as “hangers.” This occurs when partially broken limbs are left hanging often at 90 degree angles from their original position on the tree. It is only a matter of time before such limbs will fall to the ground perhaps damaging other limbs or structures or even worse injuring some one on the way down. These branches should be removed immediately. Also don’t forget to check trees for suspended branches that have become lodged in the tree. Suspended branches create an immediate danger to people as well as structures.

Branches smaller than three inches in diameter can be removed by using a sharp pruning saw or pole-pruner. A sharp saw or set of pruners will make a clean cut that should heal quickly and will reduce your clean-up time. For larger branch removal where power saws are required it is best to use a three cut method. The first cut should be made to the bottom side of the limb and should be made upward two inches or so into the branch. The second cut should be made from the top to the outside of the first cut to remove the entire branch or limb. The final cut should be made to remove the remaining stub. Make sure you do not flush cut the tree; rather, leaving just a small amount of the limb collar to promote faster healing. Removing larger limbs in this manner will prevent further damage caused by tearing bark on the undamaged portion of the tree.

Pruning sealers or paint is usually not required if the limb is removed properly.The pruning wound should heal properly on its own. Use of pruning sealers can; however, provide some aesthetic value and should at least do no harm. The best strategy when in doubt as to whether a tree can be saved is to contact a certified arborist.

While many of us use chainsaws especially while clearing away such damage on our property and in our landscapes, few people know that one of the most common injuries seen at emergency rooms after such storm events are chainsaw related injuries.

Make sure first of all that your chainsaw is in good working order and that the chain is sharp and has the proper amount of tension (not too loose or too tight). You can refer to your owner’s manual for assistance with checking the operation of your saw. There are also a few basic personal safety strategies that will help you reduce your chances of chainsaw injuries. The most often overlooked safety precautions are to make sure you use both eye and ear protection to guard against sawdust and other debris from being slung into your eyes and also to protect your hearing from the high decibel level of your saw.

Make sure you wear appropriate clothing including protected work pants, heavy gloves, steel toed boots if possible, and hardhat to protect you from falling debris. Watch out for “kickbacks” that are caused when the upper corner of the saw bar contacts objects. The kickback action violently forces the saw blade upward toward the upper body or downward toward the feet and legs and exposes the chainsaw operator to hundreds of cutter teeth per second at full throttle.

Keep in mind as well that bent, twisted, or leaning limbs and trees have a lot of stored energy that can cause your saw to become lodged or else when release or cut through can fly backwards causing serious injuries. Never operate a saw around downed trees or limbs that are in contact with power lines. Using the saw to make cuts above shoulder height also creates a hazardous condition.