Since all trees are potential hazards, the only way to completely eliminate a tree hazard is to remove the tree. Where this is not acceptable, regular inspection and appropriate action is the best way to “have your trees and reduce your risks.” Dead trees within the range of a target should be removed. A common question is “How long does it take a standing tree to fall after it dies?” The small twigs and branches typically fall first, followed by larger branches and ultimately the trunk. This process can take several years.
Pruning, cabling and bracing are remedies for reducing hazards and keeping a tree in the landscape. These generally require special tools, equipment and expertise, but certain trees are worth the investment. Prune dead, broken or hazardous branches correctly.
Weak branches or V-shaped forks can be supported with wire cabling or braced with metal rods. Appropriate treatments vary in cost and required expertise.
Prevention is the best action. Start a tree health program as soon as possible. Proper selection and placement of trees prevents many hazard problems. Hazards are often created when a tree is bought and planted, regardless of the original intention.
Care of trees during construction projects is also very important in avoiding tree hazards.
Ray Ridlen is an agriculture/horticulture educator for the Oklahoma County Extension Service. His column addresses frequently asked horticulture questions. For more information, call 713-1125.