Towering trees add beauty to your yard, provide privacy for your home, cast cooling shade in summer and can add value to a property. But storms, age and disease can turn those same trees into a hazard.
Fortunately, a few smart choices when planting and caring for trees could help protect your house. Here’s what the experts recommend.
Get Ready for the Season
An arborist should assess your trees for stability before storm season hits, says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist at the Tree Care Industry Association, a nonprofit organization that provides training and guidance to tree-care professionals. The upfront cost could save you from a huge hassle. “An arborist can spot problem areas that can likely be mitigated, to prevent damage during high winds or snow and ice storms,” says Andersen.
Inspect After Every Storm
After any major wind event—or heavy snow or ice—check for damage to your trees, Andersen recommends. Look for broken or bent branches and for debris in the tree. If a small branch is damaged and you can easily reach it, you could try removing it yourself. But for any damaged large branch—or anytime you have to climb a ladder to access the tree—Andersen says it’s time to call an expert. You might damage the tree further or get hurt. “There’s no way to predict how something stuck in a tree will fall,” Andersen points out.
Size Up Large Branches
Branches may become a hazard once they get long enough, especially if they overhang your roof. But an arborist can help you figure out if there’s imminent danger, says Andersen. The plan then might be to reduce the length of a branch without removing it, install cables from branch to branch for support, or find a way to capture large branches before they fall.
Monitor Their Health
There are no good or bad species of trees when it comes to falling branches, says Andersen, and any tree in poor health can become problematic. In addition to examining your trees for dead or broken branches, look for signs of disease or infestation, such as a significant presence of crawling or flying insects, mold, leaves falling out of season, or critters chewing on the leaves or trunk. Since many problems, such as damage to root systems, might not be obvious, Andersen recommends having an arborist thoroughly examine all your trees once a year, in late spring, and note any changes from the previous year.
If you’re planning to plant a tree, you can help prevent problems down the road by making some smart choices. First, understand how big a tree’s canopy—the spread of its leaves and branches—will be when it’s mature. Then plant the tree at a greater distance from your home or other structures. This will help keep branches—as well as mildew and critters—off your roof and help prevent roots from damaging your home’s foundation.
Read more: Use these landscaping tips to create a beautiful yard.
By Julie Anne Russell
Illustration by Rob Dobi