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Maintain your trees to mitigate future risk
Published: 12/20/2021
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Trees growing around homes can beautify the landscape, boost real estate values, and reduce pollutants in the air and water, among many other benefits.

However, sometimes trees fail, causing harm to people or property. Thankfully, severe consequences are rare, and there are several maintenance practices that can reduce a tree’s risk. Tree removal is not always the only option!

Pruning – Pruning to remove dead branches, overextended branches, competing/rubbing branches, or to balance the crown of the tree can be a cost-effective way to greatly reduce a tree’s likelihood of failure. Long tree branches experience force like lever arms, so even removing a relatively small amount of weight at the branch tips can greatly reduce the overall load on a tree.

Cabling/bracing – In some situations, metal cables or brace rods can be drilled into tree parts to limit their movement and strengthen branch connections. While these are a valid option in the tree retention toolbox, they do require regular inspection to ensure that they’re still in good condition.

Site improvement – Supporting a tree’s health through soil aeration, proper fertilization after a soil test, and ensuring the root collar is visible aboveground can improve a tree’s ability to defend itself against pests, diseases, and decay.

Target relocation/restricting access to area – Sometimes a tree defect can’t be corrected through pruning or other means, but the tree is still worth saving. In those cases, it’s best to evaluate whether a target can be relocated or access to the area beneath the tree defect can be restricted. For example, an electric dog fence can be moved outside of a dead branch’s potential fall path to keep the pooch safe and preserve the tree. It's also important to lay out clear intentions when hiring a tree service contractor. Many companies may be quick to recommend a swift and easy tree removal, even if other less impactful maintenance practices would suffice. If tree retention is a priority, it must be clearly communicated from the beginning to ensure best results.