Tree Care: Monsoon SeasoN

THE PERIOD FROM JUNE 15TH THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30TH HAS BEEN DEFINED AS THE MONSOON.

The term monsoon derives from the Arabic word "Mausim" meaning "season" or "wind shift." It is, quite literally, a shift in wind direction that causes the meteorological event. Depending on their size and duration, a downburst may be called a "macroburst" or a "microburst." The period from June 15th through September 30th has been defined as "The Monsoon." This period of summer usually brings the extreme heat, which is sometimes followed by excessive moisture in the air causing vibrant thunderstorms brought on by the very fast wind. Thunderstorms present an array of hazards that often strike suddenly and with violent force. When preceded by heavy rain, a tree will be even more vulnerable to heavy winds. Heavy rain can cause an over-saturation of the soil, so even a tree with healthy roots has a weaker hold. In this case, the bulk of the root system will become exposed if the tree falls over. Even one's best efforts cannot prepare a tree to withstand the fiercest of winds accompanying monsoon storms. However, there is a lot of preparation you can and should do to diminish potential storm damage to your trees. The most important tip is to pay attention - monitor your trees when heavy wind or rain is coming, and take the appropriate steps as needed. You can always contact us if you have a particular concern.

"Three-fourths of the damage that trees incur during storms is predictable and preventable."

A few more basic tips for avoiding storm damage:

  • Water, mulch, and fertilize the trees regularly and properly, healthy trees are going to withstand the elements that much better. Prevent the soil from becoming compacted.
  • Prune annually (or every two to three years, depending on the variety) even while the trees are still young. Having your trees trimmed by a professional who understands healthy tree structure is your best bet for avoiding problems. Poorly pruned trees can lead to snapping limbs and trunks come high winds.
  • Practice proactive tree care - any money spent on preventive maintenance of your trees will be much less than replacing them, especially if they damage cars, roofs, or structures when they go down.
  • Clean up your yard of any leaf debris or landscape trash. This will prevent more work for you when the high winds blow debris all over your yard, and this helps prevent pool filters from becoming clogged and burning out.

Staking Trees

Staking provides a young tree with the support it needs until the trunk is strong enough to hold its canopy upright. Most trees will not need to be staked longer than a year, but stakes should be left for at least one growing season. As soon as the tree can stand on its own, remove the stakes.

FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES FOR PROPERLY STAKING A TREE:

  1. Use 8-foot stakes or lodge poles (available at Moon Valley Nurseries). These stakes should be at least 6-8 feet tall and three inches in diameter.
  2. Determine the direction of the prevailing wind and insert the stakes exactly opposite one another, about 2 feet from the stem, in line with the wind. For example: if the wind direction is westerly, then place the stakes North & South.
  3. Drive the stakes vertically at least 2 feet into the ground. Try to bury the stakes so they are the same height above ground. When finished, stakes should stand upright at about 4 feet.
  4. Cut two pieces of flexible wire, each measuring at least 5 feet long. Use rubber (or cut up an old garden) to create two eighteen-inch lengths. Slip these lengths over the wire, and wrap the hose around the tree to protect the trunk from the wire. Pull equal lengths of the wire parallel to the ground and attach to the top of the stake. Twist the wires together on the outside of the stake to make the wire nice and taut - nip off any excess with wire cutters.

Care and Maintenance

Simple care and maintenance can make your trees stronger during periods of inclement weather, here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Dead wood is unpredictable because it is brittle, and cannot bend or give under pressure like living tree branches.
  • Cracks are clear indicators of potential branch failure, where there will be splitting sooner or later, so prune as a proactive step to prevent further cracking.
  • Decay, as evidenced by fungal growth or hollow cavities, is a sign of structural weakness.
  • Pests, such as the Palo Verde bore, can exacerbate a tree's health problems, however, they typically target trees that are already sickly.
  • Can you see some sky through the tree? Keeping your trees thin is the single most important thing to do to "storm-proof" them. Simply put: the thicker a tree is, the more susceptible it is to damage in heavy winds. Even for a tree that is otherwise perfectly healthy, overly dense foliage poses a safety hazard during stormy weather. A dense canopy will not allow the wind to pass easily through, and the resistance to wind can cause branches to break or even bring the entire tree down. This especially applies to weight at the ends of branches, which is why stripping only the lower parts of the branches is not adequate. The leaves will return as the tree survives the monsoon.