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20/20 Vision

November 14, 2012

I could stare at fall foliage for hours at one time, mesmerized by its variety and vibrancy.

It's exciting to witness the transformation from a lustrous, yet static, bright green canopy to a cornucopia of color among the leaves. The warmer shades of the color spectrum begin to take over, with a few glimpses of purples and plums sprinkled in throughout the leafy scenery.

But when the winds begin to pick up, even the slightest breeze detaches a few fragile leaves from surrounding tree branches - one by one - gradually revealing the bark and hinting winter is near.

And then suddenly, nothing is left.

I miss seeing the gorgeous, colorful views along the road on long commutes and within the forests during hiking trips to local parks. It's a shame we're blessed with fall color for merely a few weeks out of the year.

But while the leaves are gone, Dr. Bal Rao, Davey's research and technical development manager, suggests taking the time to focus on tree care and maintenance.

"Look at the structure of the branching - check for defects, weak branches and fungal growth," he says, explaining that branching structures should be arranged properly to help protect the tree from damage.

Weak branches will deter your tree from surviving inclement weather, so it's important to address any issues once the leaves fall and reveal the tree's structure underneath.

Branching patterns and problems to look for:

  • Crossing branches
  • Two branches originating from the same stem
  • Splitting branches from storm damage and wind
  • Cracking in the bark
  • Fungal growth, including conch, mushrooms and oozing sap
  • Branch decay
  • Deadwood
  • "Hangers," or hanging branches that are hazardous because an objects exists below
  • Broken or sagging cables that were previously installed
  • Insect- and disease-effected stems, branches

Although now is a good time to check for structural problems in your trees, Rao says you can typically prune your trees at any time. "Some plants are very sensitive to bending, such as birch trees," he explains. "A lot of snow and/or ice may lead to branch failure, but you can minimize the likelihood of failure with selective pruning."

trees through seasons - WEB

With structural pruning, you may have a bit more control over the structure and appearance of your trees than you may think. "Simply direct the branches in the way you'd like them to grow," Rao says. "You can direct them to face more sunlight for better lighting."

Rao also advises homeowners address pest infestation removals specifically during the dormant period, when insects are not active. This is a particularly ideal time for pruning and managing oak wilt and Dutch elm diseases because the insect vectors that transmit these destructive diseases are not active during winter. "Do not prune too much at once to avoid negatively impacting your tree's overall health and sugar production," he adds.

It's important to maintain a healthy structural orientation of your tree. Proper pruning techniques can help your trees survive many more years of climate changes, severe storms and more. So although the leaves have left, and the bare trees signal the beginning of the long, cold months ahead, take advantage of this time to check up on your deciduous trees and prepare them for a brand new, healthy year.

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