Prevention of Tree Failure
Gary R. Johnson Associate Professor Urban and Community Forestry University of Minnesota
Ben Johnson Undergraduate Research Assistant Department of Forest Resources University of Minnesota
By keeping track of trees on your property and their condition, preventing storm failure is much easier. Create a list of “key trees and key problems.” Key trees would be those that are most important to the property. Key problems would be those that are most likely to damage or weaken those key trees.
Check key trees regularly. When minor damage occurs, correction (such as pruning or wound “painting” on oaks during oak wilt season) may prevent it from causing extensive damage throughout the tree. If extensive damage has occurred, immediate corrective action should be applied to prevent further damage.
Pruning either corrects problems or creates them. If pruning is done improperly, it can create places for decay to enter and the wound will only increase in extent. Done correctly, pruning wounds should close over naturally, keeping decay from starting and expanding in the wound area. A general rule for pruning wounds: the smaller, the better.
Protection From Mechanical Wounding
Mulching, planting trees in landscaped beds, and even staking can give trees the necessary protection from mechanical injury. Wounds caused from lawnmowers and grass trimmers can promote areas of decay in the tree. Cars, snowplows, staples, and any stacked materials that wound stems and branches can cause long-term damage in a short time.
Using appropriate species in each site is extremely important. Many of the problems that homeowners face could be diminished just by using species that are native to the area or accustomed to the site conditions. For more information on tree species selection check the Texas Forest Service Tree Planting Guide at http://texastreeplant.tamu.edu.
Best Planting Practices. Planting too deep may be the most common planting mistake that leads to tree failure. Literature is available on proper planting techniques (see Fact Sheet 1.5). Most importantly, do not plant the tree too deep. The first set of roots should be just below the soil surface.
By watering properly and frequently, and by fertilizing when nutrients are deficient, tree health can be maintained at a high level. When trees are stressed, they become more susceptible to problems ranging from aesthetic (leaf scorch), to decay, to severe, uncorrectable damage from diseases or insects.
City foresters, county Agrilife Extension offices, and tree care professionals are available to answer questions about tree care problems.
Planting the right tree in the right place is the first step in preventing tree damage. Proper care and maintenance of trees will also help to prevent damage.