They’re beautiful. They’re essential. And, left unchecked, they can damage your home, your property and that of others.
They’re trees. And, as with so many things in life, proper maintenance is critical. Keeping your trees healthy will allow you to continue to enjoy them and their benefits – one large tree can supply the daily oxygen needs of four people, according to the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Plus, properly maintained trees are less likely to fall on your home and your car or someone else’s. So, exactly how should you care for your trees? Here are some tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation to help keep trees healthy, identify warning signs and address problems.
- Plant the right species in the right place. Proper tree care starts with selecting and planting the right trees for your property. Avoid brittle ones, such as Silver Maples, Lombardy Poplars, Box Elders and Willows. They can produce weak limbs that fall and injure people or property. With a little research and a look around your grounds, you can determine what type and size of trees will do well in your area. Be sure to avoid planting too close to your home, near sewer lines or under power lines.
- Inspect often. The sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take corrective action – and potentially save your tree. Check them regularly, especially following a storm, and have a qualified arborist inspect them annually. What should you look for? The amount of leaf cover, as well as the color, size and condition of leaves are all signs of a tree’s health. If you notice a substantial change, start keeping a close eye on the tree. It may need to come down soon. Also consider the trunk’s health. A forked trunk or one with cavities, disfiguration or fungi is a weak, and potentially dangerous, trunk. However, if there’s a large amount of sound wood surrounding internal rot, for example, the tree may still be safe. Just monitor it closely.
- Prune the right way, at the right time. The first pruning should occur when trees are young, and then at regular intervals as they age. Make the cut outside the branch collar, and never allow trees to be topped. An arborist or your local nursery can provide more guidance.
- Remove dead or dying limbs and trees. Don’t sit on this, especially if the branch or tree is threatening nearby structures or people. And, don’t do it yourself, either. Taking down a large branch or tree, maybe even a small one, is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by an expert. Also address branches that cross or rub, as both can lead to weak spots.
- Respect your neighbors. Are your trees a nuisance for or even a threat to your neighbors? Try to address the issue in a way that benefits you both. And, don’t forget to be mindful of being a good neighbor when you’re planting, trimming or otherwise caring for your trees.
Of course, even when you care for your trees to the best of your ability, they may still fall, especially during a storm. What happens then? If the tree was known to be damaged or defective, you may be held responsible for any resulting damages or injuries. So, if you have questions about fallen trees and insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to ask.
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