The official first day of winter is fast approaching and, after the last couple of winters the Northstate has seen, I thought it a good idea to address the damage winter storms inflict on trees.
Everybody loves fast-growing trees. Within a few years many of these tree species, such as Poplars and Willows, will shade a landscape or house during the brutal summer heat Redding succumbs to. They are also usually deciduous – giving landscape plants sun during the winter. Many of these trees have small branchlets throughout their canopy that seem to shed any time there is a slight breeze. One would think this type of tree is most susceptible to winter storm damage. However, there are many reasons why a tree will break under the pressure of winter storms.
I absolutely love valley oaks, and they certainly do have very strong wood. But, what about that horizontal limb hanging over the garage? Without proper pruning, a healthy limb with bad attachment left to grow large can suddenly fail under the strain of snow or ice build-up. Let’s not forget about wind storms. A tree growing on a slope can suddenly fall down due to a combination of soil saturation, erosion and high winds. So, you see, there are many reasons for tree failure during storms. The following is a list of some of the ways you can help prevent winter storm damage to your trees.
1. Plant a healthy, well-structured tree to begin with. When choosing a tree, make sure it has no sun damage, has strong anchor roots and has a strong leader and side branches. Also, newly planted trees will fail if they are not able to develop strong root systems due to soil saturation. Soil moisture should be appropriate for the tree species selected.
2. Avoid planting species that hold their leaves late into winter. Trees like Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) hold their leaves late into the storm season and this gives snow and ice more surface area to pile onto.
3. Plant more conifers. Most conifers (cone-bearing trees) are more flexible and have a shape that snow has a hard time holding onto. Other tree species such as Sweetgum (Liquidambar) and Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) have a ‘conical’ shape. This type of tree has less horizontal branch surface area – making snow and ice buildup difficult.
4. Start a pruning program early. Giving your trees the proper attention they need to develop strong branching when they are young will save you money and headaches in the future.
5. Pay attention to soil erosion. With heavy rains comes erosion. Make sure your slopes are planted with grasses and other plants that help keep the soil intact. Construction sites are also high erosion areas.
6. Have your trees evaluated on a regular basis. Hiring a certified arborist to evaluate your trees every few years will be a small expense compared to the potential damage tree failure can cause.
Marie Stadther’s life in Coachella Valley was void of trees. In 2001, she packed up and headed north. After a drive through the majestic redwoods, she arrived in Redding, where she immersed herself in horticulture as owner of her own landscaping company and as assistant to an arborist. She is now the lead gardener for Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Her love of trees is a way of life, and she shares that passion with the community. Send the Tree Goddess your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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