Trees serve many purposes in the Austin area. They beautify, provide shade, and add to the overall value of our properties. In fact, the city of Austin offers homeowners a comprehensive guide about tree care. It’s important to inspect and maintain trees for long term health and safety in our neighborhoods.
How often should you trim your trees?
Trimming and maintaining your trees has several benefits. From overall health to reducing failure potential, the first thing to consider is the specific tree and the situation. In its simplest terms, tree trimming is the entire removal of many limbs of different sizes throughout the canopy. The limbs are all removed to the point of origin, or branch collar, so the tree can heal as quickly as possible.
Some limbs are removed because they are dead, diseased, or infested; other limbs are removed because they are too low or because they are hitting or close to hitting structures. Some limbs are removed to reduce weight and lighten up the tree to help reduce failure potential. Still, other limbs are removed because they are rubbing, damaged, rotten, or split.
Sometimes homeowners want to reduce tree coverage for a view from a balcony or to see through the center of the canopy. Sometimes limbs and vines need to be pruned away from structures like homes, sheds, or pools.
You should remove low limbs that hang over driveways, walkways, lawns, and streets. You may also need to trim trees to fix storm-damaged, broken, or cracked limbs. We often thin trees or specific tree limbs to help prevent failure in summer or winter storms.
Much of the time, trees are maintenance-trimmed periodically to safeguard tree health. Large and small dead limbs are removed throughout the canopy so the tree can heal itself at the base of the cuts. As the tree puts on new rings of wood every year, branch collars expand and eventually seal off the exposed wood, closing off or ‘compartmentalizing’ rot and decay.
By removing dead limbs in a timely manner, especially large dead limbs, we can maintain strong healthy wood on the remaining scaffold limbs. This significantly reduces decay pockets and therefore reduces limb failure.
Properly pruning and tree care is key to ensuring they live long, healthy lives. Failure potential will be reduced, and they’ll live longer under ideal circumstances.
It is generally safer (although it may still have unseen internal decay factors from previous events affecting limb safety) and is certainly more aesthetically pleasing.
The longer a tree has been properly pruned and maintained, the safer it will be and the more beauty and enjoyment it will bring.
Another primary by-product of maintenance-pruning is elimination of crossing or rubbing limbs. Over time, this is as important as dead wood removal.
Prevent Injury from Crossing Limbs
When limbs expand over time, if they are in contact with each other, the rubbing is exacerbated. Crossing limbs continually wound each other more every year. Eliminating these limbs is paramount to overall tree health, and the sooner these limbs are removed the better.
Remove Crossing Limbs When They’re Still Small
It is much easier and less stressful to the tree to remove a small crossing limb than a large one. Removal of extremely large rubbing limbs from a large old live oak canopy, for example, can leave a significant hole, causing sucker growth formation on the exposed limbs and reducing the tree’s shade potential. It can be many years before it fills back in.
Not only do crossing branches wound and weaken each other over time, but they are also pathways for infection. Insects bring vector fungi and bacteria into trees through exposed wood. As branches rub bark down to exposed wood, these areas are avenues for fungal infections. White rot and brown rot (slow moving decay fungi) or the faster moving and highly destructive oak wilt fungus, can then move quickly throughout the tree’s system, often killing the tree in weeks to months.
The ideal approach to all pest control and management is to identify the problem before attempting a solution. Once a disease is identified in a tree, treatment by a licensed pest control applicator like YardDoc can be prescribed and usually save the tree.
It is important to know the progression of certain diseases to properly prescribe effective treatment, including tree trimming. You also need to know when it is too late to treat, and that the tree must be removed.
In recently landscaped properties, it is commonplace for the newly planted trees to be staked. Yet, often trees that are several years old still have strapping on them.
No tree that has been staked for more than a year should remain staked.
The primary reason for staking at all is because home builders have their landscape contractors do so. Staking is still required by some landscape architects, but it is a dated practice with questionable benefits.
Some movement of the trunk stimulates root growth. Movement caused by wind (within reason) is crucial to help smaller trees develop into strong, structurally balanced trees. Tying straps too tightly or leaving straps too long will girdle the tree.
Used Incorrectly, Tree Stakes Do More Harm Than Good
In essence, this chokes the top of the tree by upsetting the natural, smooth travel of water and nutrients through the cambium layer just below the bark. Tying a tree too loosely causes bark to continually be rubbed, resulting in wounds that may never heal and allowing the tree to be susceptible to insects and disease. Tree stakes are like crutches. They do a tree more harm than good if used too long or applied incorrectly. Avoid creating this dependency which can damage tree structure and long-term health. The key is correct planting with a proper-sized root ball – then allow nature to strengthen and develop the new tree to maturity.
It is our pleasure to care for trees in an experienced way that protects people and property, enhances their beauty for your enjoyment, and preserves tree health.
Please let us know if you need help with specific concerns about trees on your property, or schedule a free inspection to get a quote on tree trimming, tree care, and other lawn care or landscaping services.
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