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Protect your trees from high winds and stressful weather with these storm prep practices.

How to Reduce Wind and Storm Damage on Trees

June 28, 2016
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Throughout summer, we’re rewarded with our fair share of clear, blue skies with gleaming sunshine. We also experience the complete opposite - dark, rainy skies coupled with robust, howling wind.

Though they like frequent rainfall, in the midst of summer storms, our trees are vulnerable to heavy wind, hail, and lightning. These damaging elements affect trees from root to tip, which can hurt them and your property.

Rest assured, though, that properly maintained, healthy trees are usually well-adapted to withstand the typical weather of the region in which they have grown.

Best Practices for Protecting Your Trees from High Winds and Severe Storms

The best way to protect your home from the damage of storm-force winds is to be prepared.

When you’re trying to figure out how to protect trees from wind, you need to look at more than just a branch or two. You need to look at your tree from top to bottom.

And even though Mother Nature is unpredictable, if you focus on protecting trees from wind, then you lower your risk of damage during storms.

How to Protect Trees from Wind Damage

While you want to protect all of your trees from high winds and the damage they can cause, some trees may be more sensitive than others.

A young tree can often be more susceptible to storm damage. Here’s how to protect new trees from wind:

  • Stake your new tree by using a wood or metal stake and strong, soft fabric, leaving some slack for trees to move naturally in normal wind and establish a strong root system and stem taper.
  • Plant your tree in a location that offers some wind protection if possible.
  • Water your tree properly to encourage stronger roots and branches.
  • Prune your tree on a regular basis to remove dead, dying, or damaged branches or lighten those that are heavy, overextended, and bending under their own weight.

When it comes to how to protect fruit trees from wind, you want to establish a windbreak nearby and possibly attach a frost cloth to your tree’s canopy if you know harsh winds are on their way. This can help protect blooms from blowing away.

Preventative Tree Trimming

Tree trimming (pruning) can help your plant's need to combat heavy winds. A thinner, compact, balanced canopy softens the blow of harsh wind, reduces turbulence, and protects the trunk and branches.

Pruning also frees the tree of weak or overextended branches that could fall and damage property during a storm.

Installing support cables and brace rods for weak limb connections where pruning is not a solution will help prevent these from falling in strong winds.

With only stable branches left standing, trees are better able to endure the windy weather.

Install Tree Lightning Protection

Standing straight and tall, trees offer an ideal path for lightning to travel to the ground. Of course, this convenient trail is harmful to the tree – and could put your home in danger.

Install a lightning protection system to send the electrical forces down a different path. The series of wires leading into the ground steers the current away from the tree.

If you have a historical or unique tree on your property you would be devastated if you lost it. Lightning protection can help keep it safe. Installing lightning protection in trees which overhang or are immediately adjacent to your home can also provide some protection against lightning directly striking your home.

How to Protect The Root System: Tree Mulch

Most people focus on treetops when they think about storm preparation, but it’s important to look at your tree’s roots, too. They may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind.

To help hold tree roots in place during dangerous weather, surround the bottom of the tree with a wide tree mulch ring that is approximately 6 feet in diameter for small trees and out to as far as the dripline for large trees. The larger the mulch ring the more beneficial and stable environment you create for root growth.

Mulching strengthens your tree’s root system by adding an extra layer of protection. In addition to storm protection, mulch around trees reduces competition for water and nutrients between trees and turf, and it keeps mower damage to your roots at bay as well. Mulching encourages a deep, well-anchored root system that is more resilient against storms.

Watch for Open Tree Cavity

When protecting trees from wind damage, you should also pay attention to holes or cavities you find in your trees.

Tree cavities typically result when fungi infect wounds caused by a branch breaking off or a tree being hit by an object. That decaying wood decomposes and shrinks and is also a target for ants, birds, and small mammals. This activity increases the size of the hole over time.

The location of the cavity is important when you’re assessing your tree for safety concerns like high winds. If a cavity is toward the bottom of the tree, for instance, it may be at risk of falling over.

Trees can typically withstand some wounds that are smaller in size and callused – no longer decaying. But if you see larger wounds, having a certified arborist check your tree’s health could be helpful.

A tree with strong, healthy wood is more likely to survive destructive, stormy weather.

Click to learn more about prepping and protecting your trees from wind and summer storms!

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