When Storms Come Your Way

When crisis strikes homeowners should be prepared for it. Tree maintenance is an important chore to take care as part of preparation for the storm. Another nice article from the book called “Best Trees for your garden” by “Allen Paterson”. A small portion of article for our users benefit:

When Storms Come Your Way  

When a weather disaster occurs, landscape trees can’t evacuate. Rooted to the spot, they rely instead on certain inborn characteristics to survive. If weather-related damage to your trees creates hazardous conditions for you, your pets, or your neighbours, call an arborist immediately. An arborist may be able to save your tree and, if not, will remove it safely from your property: 

    Snow and ice 

Look magical on trees but they can destroy them. The weight of snow can crush evergreens, breaking them apart. It can weigh down deciduous tree limbs until they also break.  Sometimes  it weighs so heavily on a treetop that it lifts the root mass right out of the soil . Ice-coated trunks and branches bend low and sometimes snap. When a coastal ice storm hit Maine and New Hampshire one year, every young  paper broke birch along I-95 bowed to the ground. Some broke apart, but many still survive, stooped testaments to the storm. You can help avoid permanent damage by gently brushing snow off  branches you can reach. An arborist may need to stake or cable trees vulnerable to folding under the weight of ice. Whether cabled or not, let the ice melt naturally. Prune any damage so the tree will not create a hazard. Well-pruned trees and shrubs stand up better to snow and  ice than trees with weak branch crotches or more than one leader (main stem.) Tying up boxwood or erect evergreens like red cedar and arborvitae may help prevent injury. Crisscross the entire crown with  nylon cord or fishing line, removing it promptly in spring.  Protect smaller shrubs with a teepee made from two leaning boards or pieces of plywood.    


Healthy trunks and branches bend to some extent with the wind. The branches most susceptible to breaking are heavy ones that join with the trunk at an acute angle. Choosing healthy, well-formed trees can prevent this damage. If it’s too late for that, you can have an arborist help you shape the tree for added strength. Wind protection is particularly important for evergreens, which keep losing water through their leaves during the winter. Making sure these trees and shrubs are well watered before the ground freezes helps prevent the foliage from turning brown. Although you should cut back the volume of water you give your trees in early fall so they can harden off for winter, keep watering them until the ground freezes. 

You can also avoid damage to evergreens through proper planting. Never plant evergreens  susceptible to wind damage, like arborvitae and yew, on the south or southwest sides of your house. In most of the United States and southern Canada, the westerlies or prevailing winds move from the west or southwest toward the east or northeast. Local geography, including large bodies of water and tall buildings, may affect wind speed and direction in a particular place. West-to-east airflow snakes in ridges or crests and troughs or depressions going north and south. Winds on the west side of a ridge are from the southwest (warm) and those on the east side travel from the northwest (cold). If you must, build a two- or three-sided wind fence out of stakes and burlap to block the prevailing winter wind and the southern and the southwestern exposure of the evergreens. 


If a lightning strike hits a tree on your property, you may not see the injuries, but they can range from burnt roots to systemic damage inside the tree. External damage takes many forms. Long strips of bark may hang loosely from the tree, a branch may explode, or pests may overwhelm the injured tree, which dies. Popular landscape trees like pine, oak, and maple are among the more susceptible trees to lightning damage. Although you can’t prevent a calamity, you can plant trees less vulnerable to strikes such as birch and beech. If lightning strikes a tree without doing too much damage, you can help it bounce back by first cutting off hanging bark, then fertilizing the plant, keeping its root zone mulched, and watering it during dry spells. 

Making a decision to wrap or not, consider the kind of tree you’re planting, its location on your property, and whether you’ve seen sunscald on other young trees in the same area. If you decide to wrap, keep the material on a newly planted tree from. November  to march and then remove it promptly. 

Leaf scorch  

When you notice that the edges of leaves turn yellow and then brown, you may be observing leaf scorch. It usually occurs as a result of dry soils, dry winds, and hot weather. Leaf scorch reduces the vigor of woody ornamentals and can lead to pest and disease problems. Similarly, woes that weaken a tree can lead to leaf scorch. Ash, oak, linden, and maple are among the trees that develop leaf scorch during hot dry periods. Water trees deeply and mulch them to conserve moisture. 

Conifers, like pine and spruce, and broadleaf evergreens, like Andromeda, mountain laurel, and rhododendron, are susceptible to leaf scorch in both summer and winter. Conifers and broad-leaf evergreens are particularly vulnerable on sunny or windy winter days, when the damage is known as winter burn. To prevent winter burn, keep these plants well watered throughout the growing season and water them deeply if there is a dry spell in late fall. Be aware of what you plant in the path of prevailing winter winds. You can make a wooden structure to protect evergreens or wrap them with burlap. Spraying broad-leaf evergreens with an antidessicant is another possibility for late fall and midwinter. You may have to tolerate occasional winter burn on your evergreens if you don’t have time for these precautions.  


 Unless you plant trees and shrubs that tolerate wet feet for long periods of time, flooding can have disastrous effects on your landscape. Flooding may wear away topsoil or dump silt and debris over the root zones of your trees, either of which harms them. Flooded soil deprives tree roots of the oxygen they need for nourishment. Most tree roots are in the top foot of soil because that’s where most of the oxygen is, and tree roots breathe like we do. When water fills the air pockets in the soil, it leaves no room for oxygen. Wet toots are susceptible to rot. As they give out, leaves sag, yellow, and even drop; and limbs die back. Before pruning branches, wait a year and see if limbs show signs of recovery. Fertilizer or a mycorrhizal product applied to the root zone may help restore the plant’s vigor. If areas of your land flood regularly, you may be able to improve the drainage in those spots by incorporating compost or other organic material into the soil. You can also consult a landscape contractor or architect about installing a drainage system of connecting pipes to carry off  excess water to a pong or drainage culvert. 


 A lack of water in the soil affects  trees and shrubs by decreasing their vigor and even killing them. Drought destroys feeder roots and root hairs, which provide the avenue for most water absorption. Because these are mostly in the top foot of soil, they are quickly affected by moisture loss. The tree suffers strees, and leaves may  wilt, scorch, or drop. Spider mites, leaf-stressed tree. 

 If you live in an area known for dry soils and you lack access to irrigation water, plant only drought-tolerant species such as hawthorn, green ash, Kentucky coffeetree, juniper, American plum, and limber and mugo pines. If you live where drought is infrequent, keep trees and shrubs well watered during dry spells and remember that it’s better to water deeply and less frequently instead of briefly watering  the soil surface every few days. During a drought, water newly planted trees weekly , evergreens and transplants up to five years old every two weeks, and established shrubs every  four to six weeks . To water a tree deeply, set up a trickling hose around the drip line (below the crown’s outer edge) and leave  it in place for 30  minutes. Move the hose one-third the way around the tree and water again for the same amount  of time. Repeat one more time. If the tree is very big, you’ll  need to move the hose to more spots around  the drip line, Recently transplanted  material needs  special care and plenty  of water to help it become  established.  Newly planted balled-and-burlapped trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable to damage, since many of their feeder roots were cut in the harvesting process. 


In winter, the sun is lower in the sky and warms the south and southwest sides of tree trunks, killing the inner bark on the south or southwest side of young deciduous tree trunks, especially  thin-barked species  such as maple, ash, honey locust, linden, and willow. Sunscald is particularly likely when winter days are warm and sunny and nights are below freezing. The hot sunlight activates dormant cells, which freezing night time temperatures destroy. Trees are less affected in places where cloudy skies and consistently cold temperatures are the norm and when plated on the east and north sides of buildings. Sunscald happens frequently in parts of the Southwest. In New England, you may see these conditions during the typical January thaw,  when temperatures warm up  and skies are sunny. Using commercial tree wrap to prevent sunscald on a newly planted tree is usually not necessary and can hurt the trunk, especially when wrapped too tightly.