Though we’re entering the time of year when trees fade into the background — as they’ve gone bare or become blanketed by snow — it’s still important for homeowners to make sure the trees on their property are healthy and that they can survive the toughest storms.
Start with trees near the house
“A tree isn’t considered a problem unless it has a target,” says arborist Kevin Sheehan with Davey Tree in Syosset.
Homeowners should make sure to assess the health of the trees near their homes, as well as near other structures, such as patios, garages and swing sets.
Homeowners should also check for root problems, especially in trees located near driveways, says Peter Colgan, the owner of Colgan Tree Service and Landscaping in Kings Park.
Look for damage
This can be easier to do before the start of fall, as a dead branch on a tree will not have any leaves on it, while there are still leaves on the other branches. It may also be a different color than the other branches.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the entire tree,” Sheehan says.
Since a tree is made up of subparts, a dead branch is a tree’s way of getting rid of an unhealthy part, Sheehan says. But, it means you should have a tree company come in to get rid of the dead branch, before it falls and damages property or injures someone.
Homeowners should also look for visible cracks and decay, such as mushrooms forming at the base of the tree, Colgan says.
“Is it leaning toward the house?” Colgan says. “Do you visibly see any cracks and decay in the bottom of the tree?”
Holes can also be a sign of an unhealthy tree.
“Once the bark is broken and moisture gets into the wood of the tree, the rot just gets worse and worse,” Sheehan says.
Keep up with pruning
Trees that don’t have dead branches or cracks might need pruning so the wind can easily pass through.
“Make sure pine trees are cut back” before the winter, Colgan says. “The weight of the snow can settle on branches.”
Call an arborist
If you spot problems or are simply worried about whether trees located near your home can weather the next big storm, call an arborist to come and take a look and assess the health of the trees. They should be certified by the New York State Arborists International Society of Arboriculture Chapter, says Colgan, whose company assessed the health of trees in many Long Island communities, including East Rockaway and Island Park, after superstorm Sandy hit in 2012.
“Most arborists don’t charge to take a look,” Sheehan says. “The majority of the time, a tree doesn’t have to be taken down.”