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Believe it or not, winter is a great time for certified arborists to inspect your trees for signs of weakness or decay.

A Certified Arborist Can Help With Winter Tree Care

December 11, 2014

Some homeowners may wonder when it’s the best time for a certified arborist to visit their property. The answer? Right now!

Shawn Kingzette, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and district manager of Davey’s Northwest Chicago tree services, recently visited WGN Chicago’s Midday Fix segment to provide viewers tips for certified arborist visits and winter tree care. His interview is transcribed below:

Are there any protective measures we can take right now to hopefully save a tree?

SK: Most people don’t think of their trees outside when it hits wintertime.  As an arborist, it’s actually a really good time for me to check your trees.

What happens when we find deadwood on trees?

SK: Those dead branches can break in the wind. They can fall and damage our houses, or even fall onto a person, and we want to prevent that. As an arborist, I can look up into the trees, look for those dead branches and then suggest pruning, usually.

So, winter is actually a good time for arborists?

SK: That’s correct. Without leaves, I can actually see branch structure, how branches connect to each other, or if there are any weak branch attachments and hollowed and decayed areas. These are all different things in the summer that are a little harder to see.

Also, you look for cracks?

SK: Sometimes the wind will twist the trunk and vertical cracks will develop. That could be a sign your tree can split in the wind.

Decay also seems to be a problem.

SK: If we suspect that there may be a hollow area, we use a device to drill into the area without hurting it to measure the decay. As the drill bit goes in, it measures the amount of resistance. The higher it goes up, the more solid the wood is.

If you do find decay, what do you do?

SK: We have to evaluate if that tree can be saved depending on the risk. If it’s going to fall on your house, then we have to suggest removal.

Another thing you look at is weak branch union when the branches are too close together.

SK: Yes. In that situation, it’s bark-on-bark, there’s no connective wood, and there’s a higher risk that in higher wind the tree could split apart. Sometimes in that setting, we can thin it out and cable it with high-steel cables to prevent wind damage.

Heavy canopies can be a problem because the wind can uproot the tree.

SK: Yes, it could be too dense inside of a tree. We can prune and thin the canopy out to allow the wind to go through and take the weight off the canopy.

What’s a canker?

SK: A canker is a dead zone. Sometimes there is an old wound and fungi will attack that wound and cause a dead zone. That can rot, decay and make it more likely to split in that spot.

How can we fix root problems?

SK: We can prevent that by inspecting the base of the tree. The roots aren’t there just to absorb water and nutrients, but also to anchor the tree. So, if there is a lot of damage, there’s an increased risk that the tree can blow over in the wind.

Can construction impact the soil and make it too thick?

SK: That’s correct. If I see a new house or foundation with a mature tree, I’m going to inspect the base of that tree to see if it’s likely  there was root damage or determine whether that tree needs to come down.

Is tree architecture something you look at?

SK: The branching structure and the shape are both important. I look at it and make sure it’s balanced. I set the tree up so it has a good structure.

You can watch the entire Midday Fix segment here.

Suspect your trees may need some winter care? Contact your local, professionally trained Davey arborist for a free consultation.

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