Clean, Clear and Keep Your Trees This Winter

No matter where we live and what we do for a living, all of us dream of having the perfect yard in front of our house or a beautiful garden in the backyard – a green haven where the woes of our daily lives become things of the past.

We want our yards to be the perfect place for children to play, the place to gather our friends for a Sunday barbecue or simply hang a hammock in the summer and take a breather.

The crown jewels of every garden are, without a doubt, the trees. It is these magnificent giants which make our yards more appealing, add greenery to the landscape and cast much-needed shade over our lawns on hot summer days.

However, with a great garden comes great responsibility. Even the most knowledgeable garden enthusiasts may not be familiar with the peculiarities and risks of keeping and maintaining a tree. And in the rainy and windy season, the hazards become much more serious.

The perils of having an unsafe tree on your property range from simple aesthetic issues, to property damage, financial loss and even injuries and casualties. But don’t worry, the situation is not that dire – there are professional arborists out there whose job is to assess the situation and take action, may it be tree lopping, tree removal, hedging or general land clearing.

Spot Potential Risks

Although most of us are not familiar with the procedures of dealing with hazardous trees, there are a number of red flags that might help you assess the situation or know when ask for professional help. A few unmistakable signs of tree problems include signs of dead wood, tree cracks and splits, multiple trunks and signs of tree borers.

The most obvious kind of dead wood is a soft and brittle tree that bends easily when faced with snow, ice, and even mild wind. Another feature of dead wood on your tree is a noticeable difference in the foliage, i.e. simultaneous occurrence of patches of dead leaves and patches of healthy green leaves on the tree. Moreover, if the bark on the tree falls off easily and reveals patches of the smooth surface underneath, you are probably dealing with a dead or dying tree. Lastly, a telltale sign of a dead tree is the occurrence of fungi on the trunk.

Cracks and splits are another sign of a potentially hazardous situation. Although some cracks are a common reaction of the tree to the cold weather, there are cracks and splits which should never be overlooked. If you spot 2 or more vertical cracks on different sides of the trunk, that might be a sign of root breakage, which is extremely dangerous for the surroundings.

The same goes for splits which extend into the ground – a sign of rotting roots and/or trunk. And if a tree is leaning and has splits and cracks on the opposite side, call for help – it is a red flag revealing a tree which lost its structural integrity and may fall with little assistance.

Trees with multiple trunks are a problem by default. If the trunks form a “U” shape, it is not as a big of a problem as trunks forming a “V” shape, which is a sign of a potentially dangerous split in the future. However, if there already is some form of a split on a trunk, especially near the point of divergence, that is a clear sign of an imminent problem.

The weight of each side of the split increases as the tree grows, and if any of the trunks of a multi-trunk tree begin to lean away from the others, this can cause the intersection point to split and break.

The last sign that even laymen can spot is tree borers. Tree borers are pests and insects which parasitize the inside of a tree. Although the initial signs of their presence are not highly alarming, they are a definite sign that there will be structural problems and problems with breakages in the future. Two signs of borers infestation include tiny holes which are clearly different from cracks, splits or any form of exterior damage, and girdling.

Prune Early

The best defense is a good offense. There is not a better “home remedy” to prevent damage and injury from hazardous trees than to prune them early, as early as possible. Pruning is the process of trimming or removing dead or overgrown branches of a tree.

There are a number of reasons to prune your trees. Enthusiast and hobbyists usually prune trees for aesthetics or to stimulate growth in a certain direction. However, little do they realize that pruning is the preemptive strike which saves money and, more importantly, lives.

There are a few tips for laymen when it comes to pruning. First, remove the dead branches. Taking into consideration the aforementioned red flags, try to cut down all the branches which show signs of damage as efficiently as possible. Even if you don’t manage to remove the damage entirely, taking care of most of it should do the trick, at least for the time being.

If you want to prevent dead wood in the beginning, try pruning away branches that are crossing or rubbing against other branches, since that is a major cause of dead wood. Never completely prune the top two-thirds of the height of the tree. It is good to remove any dead or damaged wood here but do not remove live branches. If you do, you are risking permanent damage and serious problems with the tree in the future.

Lastly, hedging is an important concept. By hedging and keeping the tree in certain space, you are reducing the risk of possible problems spreading out of the area. So, what is the best time to prune? Simple – as early as possible in the late winter or early spring. Dead branches can be removed in any season, but waiting until the tree begins its annual grown phase to remove damaged or still living branches is recommended.

Bottom line is that you should not wait, especially if there is a problematic area on your tree.

Keep an Eye on the Weather Forecast

This one is pretty straightforward. Although it is not unheard of, accidents rarely happen without some external impetus. There are a number of external stimuli which can cause an accident: from earthquakes to little bumps while backing-up on the driveway. However, the weather is without a doubt the most notorious culprit.

Generally speaking, every weather condition may inflict damage and cause accidents, but the combination of wet and windy is the worst. The wind may be more than enough to knock off a few branches and sometimes even knock down an unstable tree. But partnered with rain, snow, humidity and, worst of all, floods, wind may lead to catastrophic consequences.

It is simple, really – wet soil loses structural integrity and if the roots of a tree are not deep enough, the force of even a mild wind might knock down the tree. And if these extreme weather conditions don’t do it, it is the ensuing issues, such as rot and weakened structural integrity, that might eventually cause an accident.

Local Tree Species and Peculiarities

Western Australia’s climate nurtures a variety of native tree species, with each adapted to specific environmental conditions.

The Jarrah and Karri trees, for instance, are well-suited to local soils and climates, yet they require particular attention when grown in non-native, urban settings. Jarrah trees need ample space for root expansion, while Karri trees are prone to gummosis.

Homeowners should attempt to mimic the natural conditions of these trees in their yards to ensure their health and longevity. Understanding the growth patterns and potential sizes of these species is also critical.

For example, the Norfolk Island Pine, popular in coastal areas, can reach over 60 meters and may not be appropriate for every garden due to its extensive size.

Seasonal Tips

In summer, the focus for tree care is on managing heat stress. Mulching and deep watering are crucial for helping trees retain moisture.

Autumn is the time for recovery and preparation, with fertilisation promoting spring growth and new plantings benefitting from cooler temperatures and increased rainfall.

Winter can bring frost, requiring protection for trees, and pruning should aim to maintain structural integrity against winter storms. Come spring, trees need extra support for growth, potentially requiring more watering, especially in drier seasons.

These efforts help ensure the vitality of trees throughout the varying climate of Western Australia.

Environmental Considerations

Trees serve as natural air purifiers and are vital for urban environments, where they can reduce the urban heat island effect by providing shade and releasing moisture.

They support biodiversity by offering habitats for various species, and in deforested or developed areas, planting native trees can restore ecological balance.

Urban trees also contribute to mental health, with green spaces known to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. Thus, tree care contributes to the health and resilience of both the environment and community.

Disease Prevention

Preventing tree diseases is crucial to maintaining healthy landscapes. In Western Australia, Phytophthora Dieback is a significant concern.

Homeowners can prevent the spread of diseases through good hygiene practices like cleaning tools and shoes when moving between different areas.

They should also be cautious about importing plants, which can bring in pathogens. Regular inspections for signs of disease such as leaf discolouration, dieback, or cankers are necessary.

If a disease is suspected, immediate action, including consulting a professional arborist or plant pathologist, may be required to manage the disease effectively.

To learn more about tree diseases, read our article about myrtle rust and gum tree disease.

Call in the Experts

You might be blessed with a green thumb, but the help and assistance which professionals offer are irreplaceable. No matter how much experience you have, it cannot stack up against the knowledge and the expertise of professional arborists. Perth Arbor Services offer a lot of help and assistance ranging from hedging and land clearing to tree lopping and tree removal services.

The first and the most important step is not to wait until the last moment to call an expert. It doesn’t matter whether you are a passionate hobbyist or responsible homeowner – regular checks from professional arborists are imperative. Not only are they able to provide reliable advice about existing problems, but they can also help you keep your trees healthy.

  • If there is a chance of you being wrong with your assessment,
  • If you are not confident in your skills, or
  • If there is the slightest chance of jeopardising your surroundings,

Call in an expert.