As the first significant tropical event of the 2021 hurricane season leaves the Northeast Region relatively unscathed, property and homeowners should keep a few things in mind about proper tree care and who is hired to do the work. Several factors may influence the amount of damage sustained by trees, especially hardwoods, during tropical weather events.
First, because some tree species have relatively shallow root systems, the combination of strong winds and saturated soils provides perfect conditions for entire trees uprooting and falling over. Huge craters left by shallow root systems create a separate set of hazards. When placing trees in the landscape, consider areas that have the best drainage. Sandy soils will allow water to percolate faster than clay soils. Also consider topography. Avoid planting trees in low-lying areas where water pools. If your landscape has any topography at all, placing trees upslope will allow excess surface water to run off and ground water to percolate, thereby preventing saturated soils, and allow root systems to fully expand and better stabilize the tree. Always leave no less than thirty feet between power lines and where planted trees begin in your landscape. Smaller trees that reach a height of less than forty feet, such as Eastern redbud and dogwood, can be placed between a house or other structure and the thirty-foot power line right of way. Larger trees, those that will get taller than forty feet, should be placed no less than sixty feet from power lines, and should be planted far enough away from a house or other structure that, should the tree come down during bad weather, no damage will occur.
Second, the importance of properly pruning trees in the landscape cannot be over emphasized. A properly pruned tree has a canopy that is open enough to allow adequate air circulation. Winds can blow right through a more open canopy whereas a dense canopy traps wind creating resistance that can snap branches and trunks. Pruning involves more than just simply cutting off branches. Improperly made cuts open the tree to fungal and bacterial infections that will, over time, stress the tree and gradually kill it. Properly pruned branches removed at the branch collar/bark ridge line so the tree will form callous tissue over the wound. Painting the wound over isn’t necessary.
Finally, always hire a licensed arborist for all tree work. Minimally, arborists should be licensed by the state (Louisiana Department of Ag & Forestry), but also ask about certification by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). The web site of Louisiana’s Department of Ag & Forestry has a parish-by-parish list of licensed arborists. Also, be leery of anyone who knocks on your door claiming to be an arborist or tree expert, tells you your trees are infested with borers or are otherwise in poor health, and offers to spray your trees with unknown chemicals. If your trees appear healthy, chances are good that they are. Always ask to see a state-issued arborist’s license and an insurance number. If they fail to provide either, don’t hire them.
For more information on tree selection and care, visit lsuagcenter.com, or call your parish extension office.