How to Prevent Expensive Tree Problems

As arborists, we often see tree problems that could have been prevented. Trees are vital resources, and the older, taller ones especially can be worth quite a lot when you take into account how they clean the air, provide shade from sun or block winter winds (saving energy costs), prevent runoff, and increase home values. We love to see healthy trees that can provide benefits for generations to come, so we want to do everything we can to help you maintain your beautiful property and prevent expensive tree issues before they happen.

Of course, not everything can be prevented. Even the strongest, most well-cared-for trees will eventually fail (or have to be removed). But overall, knowing what to look for, when to call us, and how to properly maintain your trees can go a long way in keeping them thriving for a long time.

Below are some of the common tree problems we see around Fairfield and New Haven County, some of the reasons why those issues happen, and how they could’ve been prevented. If you notice any of these problems on your property, give us a call!

A tree uprooted during a Connecticut storm

PROBLEM: Uprooted or leaning tree

PREVENTION: Proper planting, watering, or mulching, and avoiding injury to the roots

If you see a tree uprooted after a strong wind or violent storm, it’s sometimes a case of the storm just being too powerful. But in many cases, you’ll notice that the uprooted tree didn’t have any roots to speak of, that the roots were only on one side of the tree, that they were rotten, or that they grew in circles around the trunk.

If you notice your tree leaning, soil lifting on one side of the tree, or signs of decay at the base of the tree, it’s time to bring in an arborist to evaluate the situation as it’s likely that the tree will soon fall over.

There are several reasons why this problem occurs –

  • The tree was watered too close to the trunk – With no reason to branch outward, the roots stayed close to the tree’s trunk and didn’t travel outward in search of water and nutrients. Roots that grow away from the tree not only receive more water and nutrients to use for energy, but they also work as an anchor, steadying the tree in the ground.
  • Mulch was piled around the trunk – When mulch is placed around the tree in a volcano shape, the roots actually grow up from the ground, trying to get all of the (to them) delicious nutrients that the organic mulch can provide. When the mulch eventually compacts and decomposes, the roots are exposed above ground.
  • The tree was planted too deeply and/or the wire basket was left on – Burying the root flare leads to rotting, while leaving the basket on can cause roots to wrap around the trunk (this is called girdling). Read how deep you should plant a tree here.
  • Roots were injured – Cutting some of the major tree roots, paving over them, raising the soil level over the root zone, and driving over the roots are just some of the ways roots can be damaged. Often, this happens during nearby construction or major landscaping projects.

A broken tree limb thanks to a Connecticut storm

PROBLEM: Tree blown over or large branches cracked

PREVENTION: Regular and proper pruning

Proper pruning techniques include ways to reduce or thin out the tree canopy so wind can more easily blow through the branches. This is not tree topping or lion’s tailing! Instead, it maintains enough leaves to sustain the tree (trees use their leaves to generate energy through photosynthesis) while also creating a safe and visually appealing structure/shape.

Without pruning to allow airflow, a tree in urban and suburban environments can become like a sail; the force of the wind against this sail can cause the tree to fall or a large limb to crack and fall.

PROBLEM: Tripping over tree roots, running into thorns, or being frustrated that your tree constantly has to be pruned back

PREVENTION: Plant the right tree in the right spot

Before a tree is tall enough for storm damage to be a concern, it’s important to plant the correct type of tree for the location. Things to keep in mind include:

  • Is the type of tree suitable for our climate and weather conditions? Check to ensure that the kind of tree you want to plant will thrive in our growing zone. Most of our part of Connecticut is in Zone 6b.
  • How tall and wide will the tree canopy get, and how much room do the roots need? You don’t want to plant a large tree close to a building, power lines, or where the branches will obscure traffic signs or signals. As roots can reach up to three times the diameter of the tree canopy, don’t plant where roots will disrupt walkways or roadways
  • Know the appropriate growing conditions for the specific type of tree. Does it need full sun, for instance? Plant it where it will actually get full sun, not part shade.
  • Know before you plant if the tree will shed lots of seeds, if the sap will drip down onto cars, or if thorns will hurt anyone who tries to walk nearby. Don’t plant it where it will be a nuisance.
  • What do you want the tree to do? If you want it to provide shade, you’ll need one type of tree. If you want it to reduce noise or act as a privacy hedge, you’ll need a different type. Knowing the purpose of the tree before you plant will help you decide which type to add to your yard.

These are just a few of the things to consider before you plant a tree. Contact us for a consultation so we can help you choose the best tree(s) for your Connecticut property.

PROBLEM: Multi-stemmed tree cracked and/or broken under snow load

PREVENTION: Cabling and bracing reduce the risk of limbs breaking and falling

As trees grow, they sometimes develop areas that are weaker, most often where multiple stems grow together. Knowing about these weak areas is the first step in preventing dangerous broken branches (that’s where a tree inspection by a CT Licensed Arborist comes in). Once identified, cabling and/or bracing can be installed to help redistribute the weight of the limbs so that they are more likely to withstand things like a heavier snowfall, high winds, or even an abundant acorn growth.

Trees that are damaged and could potentially break or fall are big safety risks – for you, for your property, and for anyone who might be nearby. Sometimes the trees are beyond repair and must be removed, but in some cases, cabling and bracing can keep your tree intact and mitigate many of the risks of a damaged tree. Contact us for more information on our cabling and bracing options.

A tree that was struck by lightning, leaving a large burn scar and wide opening

PROBLEM: Tree hit by lightning

PREVENTION: Install lightning protection

As trees are often the tallest things around, they are easy targets for a lightning strike. Depending on the health of the tree, a lightning strike can completely destroy a tree in a giant explosion, can make it catch fire, or can leave a wound that can be infected by pests or diseases.

Lighting protection can be installed in trees that are at risk, particularly those that are high value and/or close to your home or business.

PROBLEM: Trees attacked, disfigured, and/or killed by a pest or disease

PREVENTION: Regular monitoring and timely application of the right treatment

Every year we seem to hear about some new pest that has made it’s way to Connecticut (such as emerald ash borer and the spotted lanternfly), and we’re continually learning about different diseases that can infect your trees. We know that you can’t stay up to date with all of the forces that might try to attack your trees, which is why we stay on top of all the latest research and updates. With that knowledge, we know which of your trees are at risk, if it is something that can be prevented, and what to do to protect your trees and shrubs.

When you see signs of damage from tree pests and/or diseases, it’s sometimes too late to do anything about it. But if the tree had been treated pre-emptively, the problem wouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

Diseases like apple scab, fireblight, cedar-apple rust, needleblight, various cankers, and other problems can be prevented, as can infestations by pests such as gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, scale, and tent caterpillars.

It’s distressing when we see a tree succumb to a disease or pest that treatments could have saved if administered earlier. The key is to schedule a regular tree checkup with a CT Licensed Arborist to scout for any signs of potential problems and deal with them before they become a major issue.

A decaying tree in Connecticut

Not sure what to look for?

Routine inspections and maintenance can help

As you have seen from some of the above examples, common tree care tasks such as watering, mulching, pruning, and inspecting trees can do a lot to prevent issues later. While we encourage you to spend time around your trees and to check them over yourselves, we know that some things cannot be interpreted, or sometimes even spotted, if you don’t know what to look for.

With scheduled inspections by CT Licensed Arborists and maintenance programs that can prevent common issues, you can have the peace of mind that someone who knows and understands trees is keeping an eye on one of your most valuable resources.

Concerned about your trees? Contact us for an arborist’s inspection

If you want to prevent any of the above from damaging or destroying the trees on your property, contact us to schedule an assessment with one of our licensed arborists. We will develop a detailed action plan that will keep your landscape beautiful and healthy.

Knowing the risks and what to do about them ahead of time can save you a lot of time, energy, money, and hassle in the future.

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