Protect Yourself from Costly Winter Damage; The Best Time to Prune is Now

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Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co. offers tips to prepare your landscape for winter while saving time and money.

Ken Almstead is chief executive officer of Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co.

Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co. offers tips to prepare your landscape for winter while saving time and money.

Winter is a season full of holiday cheer, festive gatherings and, in our part of the country, beautiful snow-covered landscapes. When it comes to outdoor maintenance, the image of a snow shovel most likely comes to mind before pruning equipment. Winter, however, is the perfect time to care for your trees. Preparing your landscape for the snow to come is especially prudent in light of the devastation caused by this year’s early snow storms. Thankfully, more and more people are realizing the importance of winter pruning – while saving time and money along the way.

During the winter, deciduous trees are bare. With their entire branch structure visible, it becomes much easier to identify weak branch connections, cracks in limbs, inferior crossing limbs and dead wood. Pruning to remove these branches in winter can avoid serious future damage while improving the health and strength of your trees. The cold climate also means there are far fewer insects or disease pathogens around to affect the newly trimmed areas.

Identify Problems Early
Oftentimes, a tree’s survival may depend on the care you give it before the storm strikes. The high winds, heavy ice and snow of winter can cause a great deal of strain. Having your trees inspected before the worst weather hits can give you insight into potential problem areas and allow you an opportunity to prevent costly and potentially dangerous property damage.

Branches that hang in close proximity to your house, roof, driveway or nearby power lines should be cleaned up. Dead and decaying branches, particularly those at the top or ends of a tree’s canopy, are also potential hazards. Soil that’s newly raised or lifted around the trunk can be a sign of an unsound root system – one that may give way in severe weather. Another sign of shifting is if canopies of trees are overlapping each other, which wouldn’t happen naturally. Oozing sap, stains or sawdust-like residue could mean disease or insects. Cracks, hollow or rotted areas should also be addressed; mushroom conks growing on or near the base of the tree are another warning sign.

Cleaning Up After the Storm
After a severe storm passes, trees should be evaluated for overall health from the bottom up. Although the ground may be clear, limbs damaged by ice or snow can still split and break high in the treetops. Inspecting the canopies of storm damaged trees is crucial to prevent branches from snapping and crashing down in the future – especially during high winds.

Broken branches often leave behind stubs that are magnets for decay. Since trees do not regenerate wood, when a breakage occurs, the damage is permanent. An experienced arborist can prevent or stop the spread of decay, however, by pruning any stubs promptly with precise, clean cuts. Improper pruning can cause more harm and allow decay to spread to the trunk.

Restoration pruning, which involves pruning trees that have been damaged by storms, can also play a critical role in the long-term health and visual appeal of your landscape. Trees damaged by winter storms often respond to breakages by producing many new sprouts. This new growth isn’t structurally viable and must be carefully and selectively thinned to form the main architecture of the tree. Although restoration pruning may take several years as the new growth sets in, it is important to promote proper healing and reduce or prevent future rot and decay issues.

Save Time and Money
A frozen ground surface affords arborists the opportunity to use specialized heavy equipment such as a bucket truck and chipper that might otherwise cause damage to your lawn or garden. This equipment makes the trees more accessible and cleanup easier, which means a less expensive bill. In addition, greater flexibility in scheduling and seasonal discounts may be available since work is generally slower during the wintertime months.

Trust a Certified Arborist
A well-maintained landscape can increase your property value by up to 20 percent. Hiring a professional to care for your trees will not only protect your assets, though. Doing so may also help avert serious storm-related damage and injuries. Never attempt dangerous work on your own. Aside from preventing more long-term damage, an arborist with the proper knowledge and equipment can ensure the job is done safely and correctly.

When selecting an arborist, look for one who is certified by a professional organization such as the ISA or one licensed by your state. Request to see proof of insurance – hiring someone uninsured could leave you liable for his or her mistakes. Take the time to do a little background research by checking out the company or individual’s website. Ask for references and gather several estimates to compare. Before simply settling on the lowest bid, consider which individual or firm offers the experience, credentials and breadth of services you need to best safeguard your investment. Also, there is a benefit to choosing an arborist and sticking with that individual over time since they will build a knowledge base regarding the particular trees on your property.

Ken Almstead, chief executive officer of Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co., is an active ISA certified arborist with more than 23 years of experience. He is a Northeast Organic Farming Association Certified Organic Land Care Professional, holds a certificate from the Sustainable Studies Institute and currently serves as the Horticultural Chairman of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

About Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co.
Distinguished by its full line of traditional and organic services, Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co. is a family owned and operated business founded by Richard E. Almstead in 1964. Today sons Ken and Michael Almstead oversee many of the daily operations, caring for residential, commercial, municipal, and school properties throughout the greater New York-metropolitan region. Almstead offers a full range of services to properly care for trees, shrubs and lawns, emphasizing scouting and diagnostics to help prevent problems. Offices are located in Hawthorne and New Rochelle, N.Y., Stamford, Conn., and North Halendon, N.J. For more information or to request a free consultation, visit Almstead at or call toll-free at 1-800-427-1900. You can also connect on Facebook or LinkedIn for the latest news, photos and promotions.

Press Contact
Diana Costello
Co-Communications, Inc.


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