Is there any way to protect trees from storms? Yes and no. “There’s no way to tornado-proof a tree,” said Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist in the
But most storms aren’t that severe. “There are things homeowners can do to make their trees less likely to lose branches or be uprooted in most of the storms we are likely to see,” Yiesla said.
The changing climate is bringing increasingly volatile weather and more frequent severe storms, according to a growing body of research. Those storms will affect trees.
Mature trees do a lot for homeowners: They increase property values, provide shade to offset rising temperatures, make neighborhoods beautiful, and provide many environmental benefits. It’s worth an investment to keep them strong, Yiesla said.
How do you do that? Keep them healthy. “In high winds, unhealthy trees and damaged branches will break or fall first,” she said. A well-cared-for tree is stronger and safer.
Here are some suggestions from Yiesla and the
Give trees space. If you are planting a tree, make sure it’s not too close to the house or garage, or to sidewalks or driveways. “Roots need to spread out horizontally in order to anchor a tree,” Yiesla said. “If the tree doesn’t have enough space for its anchoring roots, it will be less stable.”
Water. Homeowners often know they need to water newly planted trees regularly, but they may not think to water large, mature trees when the weather is dry. “Every tree needs moisture in the soil around its roots,” Yiesla said. “If the soil dries out, roots will die off, and that means the tree no longer has the equipment it needs to collect the resources it needs.”
The resulting stress can do lasting damage to a tree. “A stressed tree may die years after a drought because it was never able to recover,” Yiesla said. “And in the meantime, it will be more susceptible to pests, diseases and rot that can make branches unstable and more likely to break in storms.”
Get an inspection. Large trees should be inspected every few years by a trained, certified professional arborist. “A trained arborist can spot problems that may not be obvious to the untrained eye,” she said. “A professional will know how to identify and manage pests or diseases and can remove damaged limbs before they fall in storms.”
Invest in pruning. “If a professional arborist advises pruning, it’s worth the cost,” Yiesla said. In addition to removing unsound limbs or those too close to the house, an arborist can prune the tree so its weight is distributed in a balanced way, which will make it more stable. “Arborists can’t guarantee that a tree won’t be damaged, but they can make it less likely,” she said.
Find a licensed professional. To locate a trained, licensed, certified professional arborist, check the websites of the
Be prepared. Having a relationship with a firm that regularly inspects or prunes your trees may help you in the event of a damaging storm, when companies are often overwhelmed with calls. They are likely to respond first to established customers. “Professional arborists can do more than clear your driveway after a storm,” Yiesla said. “Depending on the situation, they may be able to remove damaged branches from a tree in a way that will help it recover and thrive for many years.”
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