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Vail Landscape Logic column: Snow and wind can devastate trees

Becky Garber
Landscape Logic
If you have large, mature trees that were bent low under the snow load, have them inspected by a professional. There may be cracked and damaged branches you can’t see from the ground.
Special to the Daily | iStockphoto

Snap!

That’s often the only noise we hear outside in the quite of heavy-falling snow. It’s the sad sound of a tree branch breaking or, worse yet, the side of a tree splitting and falling over.

This is the devastation we experience during heavy spring snows. Especially in neighborhoods and parks with more mature trees, it’s common to see broken and fallen limbs and others that are barely hanging on. Then, back-to-back storms mean more wind that could break off those heavy hanging limbs or push over shallow-rooted trees when the soil is saturated from snowmelt.

Springtime in the Rockies definitely has its challenges. We’ll never control Mother Nature, but we can clean up the mess, do our best to care for our damaged plants and plan ahead to cut future losses.

Cleanup tips

Make safety No. 1 — If dangling limbs hang over a sidewalk, parking space or driveway, then deal with them as soon as possible. Falling branches can cause serious injury and property damage. Do think twice about making it a do-it-yourself project. If you have to be on a ladder and underneath part of the branch to saw it off, then hire a pro who has the equipment, safety gear and know-how to prune both correctly and safely.

If you have large, mature trees that were bent low under the snow load,then have them inspected by a professional. There may be cracked and damaged branches you can’t see from the ground. They may create a breaking hazard later on, and these cracks are an open invitation for insects and disease. Evaluate and take the steps to protect the health of your tree.

Recycle debris — Post-storm cleanup can create a lot of debris. If you hire a tree service to prune, then they will remove the debris. For do-it-yourself projects, look for nearby recycling locations that accept green waste or contact your municipality to see if they are accepting storm debris for recycling.

Cut future losses

Prune trees prior to winter snows — Trees that have not had their crowns properly thinned, or trees that naturally have more branches and twigs, will catch and hold more snow than thinner trees. In those early fall or spring snows, when there are leaves on the trees, even more snow will cling to these trees causing them to bend low to the ground or snap. For these trees, the wind will be blowing more against them than through them, making damage more likely. That is why pruning helps to cut the damage losses.

Watch out for leaning trees — Trees that are already leaning are more likely to blow over than upright trees. If they are a hazard to traffic or property, then consider removing them.

Plan tree placement

• Wind — If you live in a windy area, then consider placing trees on the east side of the property, which is generally more protected from winds.

• Slopes — Trees on slopes that face away from the wind are more likely to blow over.

• Small spaces — Trees planted in small areas, such as between a sidewalk and a curb, have little space for roots to spread and take hold. When selecting trees for tight areas, get guidance on trees best suited to these spaces.

Our trees are the most expensive plant investment in our landscapes, and they appreciate in value over time. Caring for them properly brings a return on investment for years to come.

Becky Garber is a 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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