Make sure trees can withstand storms

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Olds College arboriculture (tree and shrub care) instructor Laurie Newsham says there are things residents could have done to prevent trees from falling down, due to the big wind- and rainstorm that blew through Olds a couple of weeks ago.

ìFrom everything that I saw, and from previous experience too, what we see failing are weak trees and most of those can actually be identified long before the storm comes, that they have the potential to fail,î Newsham said during an interview with the Albertan.

He says the best way to do that is to have a trained arborist (tree and shrub care specialist) come to your property and assess your trees and plants.

Newsham says property owners should take that step when trees get to be really big.

ìYou should do it when you’re nervous about what your trees might do in a storm or in a situation like we had. So for most people, if the tree is shorter than the garage, then they’re probably not too worried about it,î he says.

Newsham says most tree failures are because of the way we plant or look after our trees.

ìI think I could accurately say this: most of our tree failures come because of poor pruning techniques that have been done to them or excavation around what we call the root plate ñ that’s the area of roots that extend past the trunk,î he says.

ìIt’s because of humans not understanding what should or shouldn’t be done to trees.

ìPeople think, ëoh yeah, it’s just easy to plant a tree.’ But planting depth is really important and I suspect some of our tree failures that we’ve seen here in Central Alberta could be traced back to trees being planted too deep, because trunk tissue and root tissue are two different kinds of wood,î Newsham adds.

ìWhen you plant trees too deep, then trunk tissue can rot and roots can’t get enough oxygen, because they require oxygen as well, and the ability to transpire carbon dioxide as well too. Gas exchange; that’s very important. So planting too deep removes some of that ability and makes for a weaker tree.î

Many people consider poplar trees or willows to be weak because they shed lots of branches frequently. But Newsham says that doesn’t mean they’re weak.

ìThey quite often will shed branches, but that’s their way of dealing with heavy winds,î he says. ìThey dissipate some of that destructive energy by just breaking off branches.

ìTrees handle these kind of things in different ways. Some of them it’s just by brute strength; some of them it comes by shedding parts that reduce the wind resistance.î

“Trees handle these kind of things in different ways. Some of them it’s just by brute strength; some of them it comes by shedding parts that reduce the wind resistance.” LAURIE NEWSHAM ARBORICULTURE INSTRUCTOR OLDS COLLEGE

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Doug Collie

Doug Collie joined the Olds Albertan in 2014 as editor. He covers municipal politics, news, community events, arts and entertainment and sports happening in and around Bowden and Olds.