Tree Growth, Dead Tree Limbs and Lifeless Trees
How to Identify, Prune and Remove By Joshua Nishimoto
As the leaves fall in autumn and new growth occurs in the spring, it’s important to take the time to inspect your trees and take proper care and precautions to ensure that not only is your tree healthy but, within this process, taking proper precautions to ensure the safety of the environment for everyone around the tree. This should be your number one priority.
The first step to ensuring tree health is to inspect the tree and then prune it. Pruning a tree removes dead branches, diseased trees, and weak limbs. When thinning, reducing and shaping branches and limbs tiny enough to cut with hand tools, keep in mind that your cuts are going to encourage new growth. With that in mind, cut limbs ¼ inch above a bud that faces the outside of the plant. This will be the direction of the new growth. Keep your cuts at a 45-degree angle to prevent water damage and disease.
For thick tree limbs, it’s important to use the three-cut pruning technique to allow a callus to form. Properly pruned tree branches form a callus where the removed branch was. The callus is important to the health of the tree. Most tree branches that are cut back to the trunk or the main branch will require three cuts to prevent damage to the bark. The first two cuts remove the weight from the tree branch, and the final cut is designed for the best callus growth.
When pruning, one must begin the process as soon as the tree is planted to ensure a tree’s health lasts the entirety of its lifespan. Diseased, dead and broken branches should be removed right away. There is no need to prune until the first winter after planting. Regular pruning throughout the tree's lifespan reduces the amount of work necessary and the stress on the tree.
While there is never a bad time to remove dead limbs from a tree, it’s important to note that one should be careful when pruning in the fall. Pruning during a cold fall can introduce the tree to disease. Pruning during a warm fall can encourage new growth, which can be damaged when temperatures drop.
While there are many symptoms of a dying tree, here are a few that you might be able to spot on your own: vertical cracks or seams in a tree’s trunk, fallen bark, a leaning tree (possible root damage), or dead leaves clinging to their branches throughout winter.
What do you do if you spot a dead tree growing in your yard? Before you call your local tree service company, there are a few visual signs that will help you out, as well as some tests you can perform on your own. Inspect the tree’s trunk. Identify any cracks or exposed and smooth surface areas mentioned previously. Trunks with severe damage increase the chances that you might have a dead tree in your care.
Be sure to look at the base of the tree for any growing fungus. Fungus is often an initial sign that the tree is dead. Fungus on the trunk usually means that the tree’s internal trunk is rotted out, signaling that the only living thing in this situation is the fungus itself.
And then there is the scratch and break test. The scratch test is the easiest way to tell if your tree is healthy. All you need is a small knife. Use the knife to scratch or mark the outside of the tree’s branches. A healthy tree should show lots of green colors and be relatively moist. Do this test on a few different spots on the tree. A break test works similarly, however, instead of cutting open the tree, you are breaking small branches to check the condition of the insides of the branch.
Dead trees are a safety risk for you, your family, or others in your community. A dead tree could potentially come down on top of your house, car, or play area, which is why it is important to properly identify if a tree is dead and if removal of the tree is needed.
It is generally a good idea to remove a tree if the following factors are present: 50 percent or more of the tree is damaged; the tree is located near hazardous areas, such as telephone poles/wires, electrical lines, or common areas enjoyed by people; or removing the existing tree would benefit other trees or plants in the area, giving those healthy plants a chance to thrive.
If you have determined that your tree or a tree in your neighborhood is dead and may need to be removed, go ahead and contact your local tree-removing company or contact a certified arborist for more information about the best way to remove the tree.
Taking the time to inspect, prune, and remove dead trees, will greatly benefit your trees and the human and plant life around them. Taking the proper steps to inspect, prune and remove any dead limb or tree will ensure your tree will open up the canopy to let light and air filter throughout the entire tree and allows for increased foliage, while decreasing the chance of disease. Your trees will thank you for it.