Snow in the Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA areas is pretty rare. Usually, we only see one to two significant snow events per year. As a result, our plants are not accustomed to the additional weight that snow and ice events can put on them, resulting in significant damage to your trees and shrubs.
Knowing what to do in these snow events can mean the difference between healthy plants and a costly clean-up from an arborist or yard maintenance service. We understand how frustrating it can be to lose a tree or shrub growing in your yard for decades, so here are some tips for keeping your trees and shrubs from incurring damage in a snow or ice event.
If you have already incurred some damage to plants in your yard, just give us a call at 360-887-6955, and we will be out as soon as we can to minimize damage to your plants!
Prepare for Inclement Weather Events
Forewarned is forearmed – or so the saying goes. Staying aware of the predicted weather will be the most significant part of preventing damage to your trees and shrubs. Knowing when ice or snow is expected can give you time to prepare mentally for what may be required of you during the weather event.
The two significant factors in preventing damage to your trees are:
- Having well-pruned, healthy trees (having an arborist out once every 1-2 years)
- Actively removing snow as it accumulates on your plants
Yearly Checkup by an Arborist
It’s always a good idea to have an arborist out to your property every year or two to stay on top of plant health. We perform structural pruning on your trees to ensure their long-term health. We will also check your trees for signs of systemic issues, bug infestation, and other health issues during those visits.
Sometimes, we will advise that certain trees should be entirely removed on these health checks to prevent potential damage to other trees, structures, property, and people. Some of the most common reasons that we recommend tree removal are:
- Bug infestation or damage
- Unresolvable structural issues
- Poor soil composition or tree placement
- Overcrowding with other trees or plants
- Proximity to structures
Taking an Active Role in Preventing Snow Buildup
It’s going to sound silly, but the best thing you can do to prevent damage to your trees is prevented snow buildup while the snow event is occurring. What does this look like?
During snowfall events, it’s best to go out into your yard every 4-5 hours and brush things off. Shaking smaller trees and shrubs is a great way to keep snow buildup from accumulating. If you bring a broom, you can extend your reach by about 5 feet and use the broom to shake off branches of larger trees that might otherwise be out of reach.
If you are willing to head out and brush trees off and shake shrubs, make sure to suit up in a useful raincoat. You will be covered head to toe in the snow by the end of your outing, and it would be nice if some of that snow was easily repelled.
Please, do not attempt to climb any of your trees during a snow or ice event. You should probably leave the climbing to professionals even in good weather. We are bonded, insured, and well-trained to prevent injuries to ourselves and your property.
This may sound like a silly thing to do, but it can save you thousands of dollars in damage abatement and clean-up. Simply shaking trees and shrubs off before you go to bed and waking up a few hours early to shake them off again can make the difference between a tree you get to keep and one you have to have removed.
The biggest factor in this process is keeping up with it. As snow accumulates, you have to remove it, which often means going out a few times during each storm.
Ice Buildup on Trees and Shrubs
Obviously, you can’t shake off the ice, and you shouldn’t try. Ice fuses to your trees and shrubs as it lands, and shaking your plants can be cathartic to watch the ice rain down but can also end up hurting the plants. With ice buildup, the best measure to take is preventive structural pruning.
Structural Pruning as a Preventive Measure
Having an arborist out once every year or two to structurally prune your trees can drastically cut down on the damage to trees in dramatic weather events. Structurally weak branches, dead branches, and over extended branches are carefully removed to give your tree the best chance at continued health.
Not only is structural pruning helpful to prevent damage to your trees in snow and ice events, but it can cut down on the amount of damage sustained in high wind conditions.
If you don’t have your trees pruned before a storm on a regular basis, there’s nothing you can do in the midst of a snowstorm except for shaking the snow off your trees. This is especially true with larger trees that you can’t manage to shake or reach.
Cabling trees is always partnered with structural pruning. Structural pruning is the first line of defense for mitigating potential hazardous situations.
In large trees with structural issues with large branches, sometimes we can support them by using cabling or braces, which we call tree support systems. This usually includes the placement of special hardware that is made to bend and move with the tree. We will use different branches or portions of the stem to support these unsteady limbs with the cabling.
If the tree is very old and large and the trunk begins to split, we can sometimes save it with a tree brace. A brace is composed of rods, bolts, and washers that brace the trunk against the ground and slow the progression of the split.
How to Repair Snow Damage on Trees
The first part of determining how to treat snow damage to trees is to determine what is damaged on the tree and how it’s damaged. Common signs of snow damage to trees include:
- Broken and hanging limbs
- A lean in the tree that wasn’t present before
- A pulling of the root system
- Fallen limbs
- Cracks in the tree trunk or limbs
Sometimes, repairing snow damage to trees can be as easy as picking up limbs off the ground and cleaning up the wounds where the branches were snapped. To clean up the wounds, make a clean cut at the nearest lateral or the stem/trunk of the tree.
Pruning small and broken branches can help to prevent pest infestations and can help the tree to compartmentalize the wound faster.
If the issues with your tree are extensive or the breaks are too large for you to clean up yourself, it might be time to call a certified arborist to assess and treat the tree. We have the tools and the knowledge that allows us to do quick work of clean-up while assuring the best-case recovery scenario for your trees.
We are also able to tell you when a case is so extreme that the tree will need to be removed. We can give you a few different bids and let you decide what course of action is best for your property and your pocketbook.
Be Careful When Tackling Snow Damaged Trees Yourself
It’s great to be handy around the house, and trees are sometimes very innocuous, seeming to the lay person. It’s hard to view a tree as being capable of terrific danger, but in reality, they are sometimes quite dangerous.
If you are dealing with a large, damaged tree, we will caution you not to perform the work yourself. We are bonded and insured to work on trees, but more importantly, we have a keen understanding of the danger you face when you tackle the tremendous kinetic potential that trees have.
Each vertical foot of a large tree can represent hundreds of pounds of solid matter suspended in the air and ready to crush anything below. Add to that, many times, trees are bound by other trees that touch them and exert force on them in different directions, and you have the very real potential for death or serious injury.
When approaching snow or ice-damaged trees, consider them extremely dangerous until proven safe. Have a professional come out and assess the danger in your trees before approaching or working on them yourself.
There can be weaknesses in your tree that you can’t see.
Understanding how to make cuts that are safe for you and advantageous to the tree can be quite difficult and ought to be left to the professionals.
Choosing a Tree Care Professional
Choosing good tree care professional or arborist can be tricky. There are two ways to figure out who is reputable that we have come to rely on, and they are:
- Word of mouth
- Google reviews
First and foremost, talk to your neighbors and see if they recommend anyone. If they like them, there’s a good chance it’s because they were treated fairly and with respect. Don ‘t stop there – feel free to Google the business and read some of the reviews, both negative and positive. This will give you a good idea of the tree care service you are about to contact and will likely be a good gauge of the business.
Always feel free to give us a call at 360-887-6955, and we will be out as soon as we can to minimize damage to your plants!