Figure 12. Flush cutting, i.e., cutting too far into living tissue, can provide sites of decay.
Photo by Gary R. Johnson
Inventory: By keeping track of trees on your property and their condition, predicting storm failure is much easier. Create a list of "key trees and key problems." Key trees would be those that are most important to the property. Key problems would be those that are most likely to damage or weaken those key trees.
Monitor: Check key trees regularly. When minor damage occurs, correction (such as pruning or wound "painting" on oaks during oak wilt season) may prevent it from causing extensive damage throughout the tree. If extensive damage has occurred, immediate corrective action should be applied to prevent further damage.
Figure 13. Leaving long stubs may also provide entrance sites for decay. Photo by Gary R. Johnson
Proper Pruning: Pruning either corrects problems or creates them. If pruning is done improperly, it can create places for decay to enter and the wound will only increase in extent. Done correctly, pruning wounds should close over naturally, keeping decay from starting and expanding in the wound area. A general rule for pruning wounds: the smaller, the better.
Protection From Mechanical Wounding: Mulching, planting trees in landscaped beds, and even staking can give trees the necessary protection from mechanical injury. Wounds caused from lawnmowers and grass trimmers can promote areas of decay in the tree. Cars, snowplows, staples, and any stacked materials that wound stems and branches can cause long-term damage in a short time.
Figure 14. Planting too deep hid a girdling root that caused stem compression. The stem failed several inches below ground.
Photo by Diana Bolander
Appropriate Species: Using appropriate species in each site is extremely important. Many of the problems that homeowners face could be diminished just by using species that are native to the area or accustomed to the site conditions. For instance, an upland forest tree (white oak) will never be healthy and stable if planted in compacted, poorly-drained clayey soils. Tamarack would be a better selection for this type of site.
Figure 15. Proper way to plant a tree. Illustration provided by the National Arbor Day Foundation, Tree City USA Bulletin No. 19.
Best Planting Practices:
Figure 16. Tree failure can have severe consequences--many of which can be prevented.
Photo by Gary R. Johnson
Maintain Health: By watering properly and frequently, and by fertilizing when nutrients are deficient, tree health can be maintained at a high level. When trees are stressed, they become more susceptible to problems ranging from aesthetic (leaf scorch), to decay, to severe, uncorrectable damage from diseases or insects.
Assistance: City foresters, county Extension offices, and tree care professionals are available to answer questions about tree care problems.