How to Protect Your Trees from Monsoons

Sun, August 16, 2015 11:48 AM | Anonymous

This past week we received emails from people wanting to replace trees that were uprooted during a storm so we figured it’d be a good time to review the ways you can protect your trees from monsoon damage.

Monsoons in Arizona typically occur between June 15th and Sep 30th. Violent winds due to a sudden shift in speed and direction account for most of the damage incurred to trees (the word monsoon means “wind shift”).  Preventative tree care like properly pruning and watering your trees is the best line of defense against monsoon damage.

Overgrown and top-heavy trees--due to improper or lack of pruning-- are typically the ones that split during storms (pictured below). It’s best to have an arborist assess your pruning requirements in May and June, before the onset of monsoons, and prune as needed.

Performing routine pruning maintenance on your trees after the first year of growth is  important in order to protect them from storm damage and to promote healthy tree growth. Light trimming and the removal of dead limbs can be done throughout the year but major pruning during winter dormancy is the most common practice as it leads to a burst of new growth in the spring. However, do not prune during the coldest months or temperatures. It is recommended not to prune trees during the fall because tree wounds seem to heal more slowly and decay fungi release their spores during the fall. Ideally, trees should be thinned to no more than 20% of the canopy size and 80% of the area pruned should be new growth on the outer third of the canopy. Refer to our blog on How to Properly Prune Your Trees for more information and guidance.

Equally important as pruning is to properly water your trees. Along with violent wind, monsoons bring heavy rain which can over-saturate the soil around a tree and make the tree vulnerable to strong winds and uproot them (pictured right). Although old trees with healthy root systems can still be yanked up by monsoon winds, there are things you can do to strengthen a tree’s root system and increase its chance of surviving a storm.

The first two to three years after planting a tree are critical to developing a well distributed root system.  Deep irrigation (2-3 ft) during the spring and summer help desert-adapted trees resist the damaging effects of high winds. Once the monsoon season begins, however, resist the urge to soak your trees as they uproot more easily in soft, wet soil and less water is needed since trees retain more water in high humidity. It is often recommended to minimally water desert-adapted trees after 3-5 years of growth and once a well-established root system is formed. Additionally, making trees "seek out" water and nutrients by placing irrigation emitters around the outer edge of the tree’s canopy (called the drip line) will help develop a more dispersed root system and reduce the risk of wind throw. Properly watering a tree can also prevent the tree’s canopy from growing too quickly and rendering it top-heavy. Refer to our blog on How to Properly Water Your Trees for more information.

Along with properly pruning and watering your trees, below are other steps you can take to help protect your trees from storm damage:

  • Add mulch and fertilize to your trees consistently and adequately so they grow healthy and are better prepared to withstand the monsoons.
  • Young or weak trees might need to be staked for additional support during this time.  However, remove the stakes once the tree is stable. (Refer to our blog on How To Properly Stake a Tree)
  • Keep an eye on your trees to spot early damage such as splitting along the branches or trunk and tend to it promptly.  

If your tree does get damaged during a storm, feel free to post a question on our forum here or find an arborist in your area. And remember--the cost of tree damage prevention is a fraction of the cost of tree damage replacement.

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