Dangers of snow-damaged trees

Even though trees in the high country instinctively know how to survive the winter and heavy snow loads, there can still be times when branches break. Maybe they can’t bear the weight of the snow or they snap in the wind. Here are some useful things to know as we stand on winter’s doorstep.

Priority pruning

Broken branches: When branches break in storms, there is no “clean” break like you get with a pruning saw. Breaking limbs often rip and tear along their length and leave part of a branch still attached to the tree. These breaks and tears require corrective pruning to safeguard the health of the tree. If you can stand on the ground and cut or saw the limb, here are some basics:

• Follow the broken branch back nearly to the trunk of the tree.

• Cut the branch near the trunk, but outside the branch collar.

• Improperly pruned areas are an open invitation to insects and disease, so making the cut in the right place is important. If you make the cut flush with the trunk, the tree will not be able to callous over the wound to heal naturally. Cut at the branch collar.

• Avoid using wound treatment products labeled as tree wound paints, tars or sprays. They are unnecessary. Make a clean cut in the right place and let the tree do what it does best.

Hangers: These are partially severed branches that are still hanging in the tree — and an accident waiting to happen. They can fall at any time to damage other limbs below or property underneath the tree. They should be a priority. If dealing with “hangers” cannot be done by standing with two feet on the ground, hire a professional.

Unseen hazards

Besides the damage you see, many branches in deciduous trees may have been weakened by cracks that are horizontal—running along the length of the branches. They may not be visible from the ground, but the weakened wood can cause limbs to break in the future. Cracks in big trees with large branches can be a serious hazard. Have trees evaluated as a proactive step against potential damage.

Find a reputable tree company

Pruning trees properly should not be considered a DIY project just because you happen to own a saw. Proper pruning requires knowledge of the tree and the best techniques to prune the damage. Be a cautious consumer and be careful who you hire. Tree work, especially high up in trees, can be dangerous and requires specially trained technicians.

Consumer tips:

• Make sure the company has adequate insurance and document it by getting proof of their insurance.

• Find out if technicians are certified to do the work.

• Since municipalities often require arborists to be licensed by the city, make sure the company holds the required license where you live.

• Document their claims. Hiring an unlicensed and/or uninsured contractor might create liability issues for you, so verify that what the company tells you is in fact accurate.

Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.


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The VailDaily Updated Oct 14, 2013 12:27PM Published Oct 14, 2013 12:27PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.