How to protect your trees from storm damage
In reality, storm damage is often the result of poor tree care long before wind, rain, snow or ice. "If they are properly cared for, most trees won't fail in a storm," says Jon Pace, owner of A-rated Don's Tree Service in Sacramento, Calif.
"Many tree problems are the result of the wrong tree being planted in the wrong place," says Jake Johnson, manager of highly rated Bartlett Tree Experts in Kenmore, Wash.
Trees may look like they fit a space when they're small, but over time they can outgrow that space or their roots become crowded. "Once a tree is weakened or in poor health, it can become a hazard," Johnson says.
Once a tree is damaged or creates problems by its location, it may be necessary to call in a good arborist to analyze the issues and propose corrective action. That action doesn't always include a radical pruning job. A certified arborist will do a careful analysis of the tree's growing situation from the roots up. In some cases, if the problems resulted from the tree being planted too deep, the solution may be as simple as removing soil from around the root flare and the top of the root system. If serious pruning is needed to reduce the potential for storm damage, a qualified arborist will remove only what is necessary so that the risks are reduced and the tree's health is maintained.
"Consider the hiring of a good arborist as a long-term investment for your trees," Johnson says.
Both Pace and Johnson recommend using arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. "ISA-certified arborists have to take a number of courses to receive their certification and the program is not easy," says Johnson, an ISA Master Certified Arborist. Beyond that, they must be licensed, and most importantly, have proper insurance coverage. "Arbor work is the third most dangerous profession out there," Pace says.
Ask for and check references by looking at their work. Johnson adds that a good arborist will be busy most of the time. "If they are out knocking on doors through a neighborhood, they aren't busy and may not be good," he says.
When you talk to the arborist, explain what you want and then listen to his or her suggested solutions. A good arborist will be able to define the proper solution, tell you exactly what will be done and then communicate that accurately to the crew that comes to do the work.
Pat Munts grew up in western Washington but has spent the last 30 years gardening on the dry east side of the state near Spokane. She freelances for the Spokesman-Review and has served as eastern Washington editor for Master Gardener Magazine. She's the small farms coordinator for both WSU Spokane County Extension and the Spokane County Conservation District.