Season: Summer

Summer tree safety check

As Summer arrives and trees begin to come into leaf and flower it is a good time to do a general health check including the removal of dead limbs and inspection of limbs that are prone to breakage.

Dead timber is very much a part of the life cycle of trees whereby insects, fungi and other decomposers break down the fibrous mass to be reused in the garden as a nutrient supply. In a garden context though dead limbs can be a major safety hazard for buildings and people so a thorough inspection is recommended.

By waiting for spring and early summer it is much easier to identify the limbs when they fail to sprout leaves or flowers, often the presence of decay fruiting bodies also suggest decay and dieback. The best method is to methodically scan the tree in sections following branches from the trunk outwards looking for the signs of dead sections.

Limb fracture

Dead limbs are quite brittle and can snap out easily, they can break away and remain caught by other branches in the canopy as "hangers".

Pruning out deadwood can be done at any time of the year, it is best done with a clean sharp lopper or saw. The limb should be cut back towards healthy wood ideally where a growth point exists where new growth can develop. Where a whole limb needs to be removed the cut should be done to leave a stub just outside the branch collar next to the trunk.

Once the deadwood has been removed you may consider the option of keeping it in a pile in an area that creates a “wild” bio diverse habitat. If the pile is left with good lengths of wood the contrasts in humidity and shade will create a range of habitats for fungi and insects to thrive in. Drilling holes into larger pieces of timber also aids certain burrowing insects to take up residence.

In terms of inspecting a tree for healthy limbs prone to failure it often requires an arborist to help you identify them. At R.J. Tree Services we do this survey free on every quote, for most trees you should not have to pay for a basic survey. The factors that make limbs prone to failure are:-

  • Older trees with wide canopy forms.
  • Trees where limbs have been previously damaged and have decreased strength at the points where occlusion should seal the wounds.
  • Branches with large foliage cover creating a large “sail” area to the wind.
  • Included bark at the junction of key branches. This can create transverse splits along the top of the branch that often cannot be spotted from ground level.

Branches that rub against each other creating "canker" wounds that are points of weakness.

A wide range of tree surgery options are available to reduce the likelihood of such fractures depending on the tree type and form.