How can you help your trees survive winter weather extremes without suffering from branch breakage?

How to Spot and Help Prevent Branch Breakage on Trees

December 10, 2014
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As author John Steinbeck once said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” Some of us know all about the extremes of winter: the bitter cold temperatures, artic-like winds and, of course, blankets of snow and ice.

It’s true, residents of some regions often encounter wicked winter conditions before enjoying the sunny summer days that now seem a lifetime away. But after experiencing heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures—for months on end—can our trees feel that same sweetness of summer? Or, do they still suffer?

Branch breakage is just one sign your trees may be suffering from the winter season. So, how can you help? First, know what causes branch breakage and how to prevent it with these tips:

What Causes Branch Breakage:

Extreme, rapid temperature changes. For some of us, this winter has already been full of extremes. One day it is 10 degrees, the next it is 40, and your trees feel it, too. Sudden ground freezes and rapid temperature fluctuations can cause stress and breakage to your trees.

Heavy limbs. Many times, the weight caused by a snow or ice storm adds extra weight to your trees’ limbs and branches. Your trees may not be prepared to bear that extra weight. As a result, trees may suffer from breakage, wounds and ragged tears from the weight.

Wicked winds. If one side of a tree is subjected to the heavy, extreme winds that accompany winter storms, they are susceptible to branch breakage. If a branch is broken or hanging as a result of wind, it can be a liability to you, your home and neighborhood.

How to Prevent Breakage:

Cable or brace. While the weather is still rather mild for some of us, head outside and prepare your trees prior to the next winter storm. Limbs and branches can loosely be cabled or braced together to help protect against breakage.

Let nature do the work. Branch breakage commonly happens due to the improper removal of ice and snow. If you have just received a fresh snow, gently remove it from branches before it freezes and causes extra weight. If your trees are encased with ice, allow the branch to melt naturally.

Precautionary pruning. Since trees experience their dormant season during winter, the season serves as a great time to prune with little injury. Pruning can help eliminate weak or broken branches, which will only cause more breakage as winter storms and extreme temperatures come into play.

For more winter tree care tips, download our full winter checklist to help your trees see a healthy winter!

Suspect your trees may be suffering from branch breakage? We can help! Contact your local, professionally trained Davey arborist for a free consultation.

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