Our area experienced strong wind gusts, thunderstorms, and a hurricane this year. Some landscapes suffered tree damage or even a total tree loss as...

Our area experienced strong wind gusts, thunderstorms, and a hurricane this year. Some landscapes suffered tree damage or even a total tree loss as a result of nature. Although there is no single way to prevent this type of damage, here are some suggestions that can increase the likelihood that your trees will remain standing tall.

Have the soil tested. I know many of you are saying, “He says that all the time.” You are correct; a soils test is the least expensive but best practice for plants. Healthy, well developed feeder and structural roots of trees require healthy soil conditions. Soils with minerals that are unbalanced and have little organic matter will not provide the tree proper growing conditions. Many times when a tree has overturned, you will notice a root ball that is a fraction of the size of the tree canopy. Healthy tree roots extend outward two to three times the width of the tree canopy. Identifying the soil’s deficiencies and amending it to suit the trees needs is the first step in maintaining trees.

Proper pruning. Trees can benefit from pruning but can also suffer. Pruning is a skill that requires research, practice, and sometimes power tools. Tree topping is a common but detrimental practice. Many people believe reducing the size of a tree by topping will also reduce the risk of damage. In theory that may be true. In most cases, however, the tree response is to send out numerous upward, fast growing shoots known as “suckers.” Sucker growth is not structurally sound, and will break more easily in windy and icy conditions than natural developing branches.

Over-thinning is also a common practice to avoid. Proper thinning of branches can increase air flow in the tree’s canopy. Ideally, you want air to flow through the branches as opposed to pushing against the branches. Removing too many branches reduces the tree’s food producing ability. Removing too many interior branches can lead to sun scalding of the bark as well as sucker growth.

Inspect your trees. Disease, insects, and poor soil conditions leading to declining tree health does not happen overnight. Look at the bark, the branches, the leaves, and the ground surrounding the tree. If something appears to be different, chances are it is. Having your trees inspected by a certified arborist is a good idea, especially for large trees. Call the Chesterfield County Cooperative

Extension Office at 751-4401 for a list of certified arborists, or visit http://www.chesterfield.gov/extension, select “quick links,” and open the link for certified arborists.
Think of trees on your property as an investment. Like any investment, you want to maximize your return. Putting in the time and cost involved in maintaining your trees will be worth it.
Larry’s timely tip: If you have cool-season grass, it is time for your October lawn fertilizer application. Make sure it has been at least 30 days since your first application. A good choice is 16-0-8.

Apply six pounds for every 1,000 square feet of grass.

Follow me on twitter@vngardener.