July and August has seen some wild weather hit Sydney and the surrounding areas, pummeling us over the winter with strong winds, storms and torrential rains. Trees in particular are susceptible to this kind of wild weather with winds regularly bringing down branches and sometimes even uprooting whole trees each and every year at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to property and sometimes even at the cost of lives.

There is little you can do –save removing the entire tree– to avoid the kind of severe storm damage that brings down branches and/or the tree itself but there are some preventative measures that you can carry out that will give your trees a fighting chance against Mother Nature and reduce the risk to you and your property.

A tree management plan is one of the first things you should look at. You can firstly prune and remove any branches that are already damaged or dead –known as dead-wooding. The canopy of the tree can also be thinned out to avoid what’s known as ‘wind loading’. Trees are naturally designed to sway in the wind –the movement actually strengthens the trunk and branches –but an excess in canopy can also act as a kind of sail, applying too much ‘loading’ that can shear branches from the trunk and can even uproot the tree altogether. A symmetrical crown that has been thinned out and allowing more wind to pass through it, rather than be caught in it, reduces the likelihood of large branches splitting away from the trunk –or a complete root failure that can bring the entire tree down.

Maintaining healthy trees is a key to the success of your tree management plan. A tree with a strong, healthy root system is the best defence against any tree damage. Roots obviously support the tree in general and if they become stressed or damaged the effects can be irreversible. Mulch and water regularly and try to avoid any root disturbance that might harm your trees and leave them susceptible to the strong winds and flooding rains. Torrential rain can sometimes weaken the ground around a tree but with a strong, healthy root system the risk of this occurring is greatly reduced and it gives the tree its best chance against a wind or storm event.

Some wind damaged trees can still be salvaged by the removal of the damaged areas but others may need to be removed altogether –the damage may not be obvious at first but something such as a twisted crown can kill your tree slowly over a long period of time. Note: Lightning damage unfortunately is pure luck of the draw. If a tree is damaged by lightning it can be pruned back and the damaged sections removed in most cases –excepting any internal or root damage.

Remember though, when it comes to protecting your trees against strong winds and storms, the best defence is preparation. Carrying out regular care and maintenance such as pruning and crown thinning will be invaluable in the long run –for the safety aspect as well as for the trees long term health. Winds and storms, like we’ve seen this winter will nearly always bring down branches and/or trees but with careful tree work, carried out regularly, you can minimize most of this risk.