Posted on: 7 October 2020Share
Unhealthy growth patterns on a tree can lead to broken branches or a dead tree once winter arrives. The combination of wind and snow weight in the tree during a winter storm can result in branch breakage and severe damage. Fortunately, a bit of proactive trimming in the fall can prevent these issues.
1. Rubbing Branches
A well-trimmed tree has plenty of room in the crown for movement, so two branches should rarely come in contact with each other. When branches rub together, the bark covering wears off, which opens the tree up to disease while also making branch breakage more likely. Heavy thinning to prevent rubbing is typically done in spring, but you can have any larger branches that are rubbing together trimmed out in fall so that you can avoid winter damage.
2. Narrow Crotch
Crotch refers to the top angle where a lateral branch connects to the trunk. If this angle is less than about 45 degrees, the branch may not be able to withstand heavy ice or snow weight. Instead, it will snap as the weight starts to push the branch downward. Although the damage can usually be repaired with a spring trim, falling branches do pose a hazard. Trim out any branches with a narrow crotch angle to prevent this issue.
3. Wide Crotch
A wide crotch angle is any angle greater than 90 degrees. These branches droop toward the ground, creating a sagging, weak crown. Snow and ice will easily collect on these branches, which will then cause them to droop even further downward. Unlike narrow crotches, wide crotch branches rarely just break off. Instead, they usually split away from the trunk and cause even more extensive trunk damage. Wide crotched branches need to be removed before snows arrive.
A tree branch can die back for a variety of reasons, from summer drought to disease. Generally, heavy pruning is done in spring, but you can remove deadwood and dieback at any time. If the branch has no developing buds and the inside is no longer green, it is likely dead and safe to prune away in the fall. Removing the dieback now ensures these brittle dead branches won't come down in winter storms.
5. Water Sprouts
A water sprout is a fast-growing branch that sprouts from a bud on a lateral branch. It grows perpendicular to the branch, and it puts on size quickly. Unfortunately, the weight and growth pattern of these branches weaken the supporting branch, increasing the chances that it will break off in a winter storm. Fall, after the leaves drop, is a good time to locate and cut off any water sprouts.
Contact a tree trimming service before winter storms arrive if you notice any of these issues with your trees.