As winter approaches, we tend to think of evergreen trees because they play such an important role in our upcoming holiday celebrations. A less obvious reason for evergreens, the sweethearts of the season, is the green respite that they provide from a monochromatic winter. While evergreens deserve to be recognized, it’s also important that we not forget our deciduous trees. This is the season when their lifeless skeletons need TLC.
Your leafless deciduous trees aren’t dead. They’re just dormant, and dormancy is what makes it such a good time to have maintenance service performed on them. Dormancy acts as nature’s anesthetic, and they’ll have plenty of time to “heal” (more properly “callous” but that’s another story). Lack of foliage also lets our arborist get a good view of the tree’s structure. It gives them a view of the tree that’s similar to how doctors see our bodies through x-rays but without the cost or exposure to radiation.
The most common maintenance procedure for deciduous trees is pruning. Pruning removes dead, dying, broken, crossing, rubbing and other branches that are affecting the tree’s health. Pruning lower limbs is a technique that raises the crown. We even have procedures for reducing a tree’s height without having to resort to the tree mutilating practice of topping.
Sometimes, more serious work is needed. For example, a tree whose trunk forks into two trunks may need cabling and bracing. This condition is referred to as co-dominate leaders, and the fork usually forms a tight “V” rather than a stronger “U”. Although both leaders look equal, the aren’t. One is always stronger and will win out in the competition for space at the fork.
Cabling and bracing strengthen the fork, referred to by arborists as a crotch. We drill through the leaders right at the fork. We then insert a threaded steel rod with big washers and nuts on each end. The nuts are tightened to enable both leaders to withstand strong winds. A network of cables is then installed in the tree’s crown to further reduce sway in a windstorm.
Leafless trees also allow our arborists to easily inspect for hazards, such as rot. When mushroom-like organisms appear on the outside of the tree, it’s an indication that rot’s at work inside. What you see outside is called a fruiting body. Its job is to spread spores. These aren’t necessarily a death sentence for the tree. We have instruments that let us determine the amount of rot present. We can then give you an accurate prognosis and make recommendations for dealing with the problem. Trees have lived for decades with rot.
Winter is the time you should be heaping love on your deciduous trees. Don’t worry about maintaining evergreens at this time. Evergreens only need care in case of an emergency like broken limbs. They should receive preventive maintenance in summer, specifically June or July.
Tree pruning is not a do-it-yourself job. It’s dangerous and, each year, too many DIYers get hurt or worse. All the tree maintenance services discussed here should be performed by a
professional arborist who has the specialized training, equipment and experience to perform the work safely and in compliance with industry standards.