There has been considerable storm damage to trees in the landscape this year and more can be expected. The following are some points to consider to reduce storm damage to trees in the landscape.
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 out damaged material) 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.
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. Any actions that causes wounds on stems and branches can cause long-term damage in a short time.
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 (such as white pine) will never be healthy and stable if planted in compacted, poorly-drained soils. A tree adapted to moist soils will do poorly in droughty areas.
Best Planting Practices: Planting too deep may be the most common planting mistake that leads to tree failure. Literature is available on proper planting techniques. Most importantly, do not plant the tree too deep. The first set of roots should be just below the soil surface.
Adapted from "Storm Damage to Landscape Trees: Prediction, Prevention, Treatment" by Gary R. Johnson, Associate Professor, Urban and Community Forestry, Ben Johnson, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota.