The first thing we have to know is what a tree is. Although it is easy to recognize the majority, the truth is that sometimes many doubts can arise. Well, to have them resolved we must know that a tree is a plant that has a woody and raised trunk more or less thick (some authors establish a minimum of 10cm in diameter) that branches at a height of about 5 meters or more forming the canopy.
This treetop becomes increasingly dense as the years go by, since it produces secondary branches, and is made up of leaves that may be out of date (they all fall in a certain season of the year, such as the Acer palmatum) or perennial (they can fall and renew throughout the year, or it may happen that they are renewed in a matter of a few weeks every X years, which is for example the Brachychiton populneus).
1. Responsibility for safety
Safety in parks, backyards, forests is the responsibility of either the owner or the public administration, which must take care of it. Since they have the obligation to guarantee safety. Dangers are often hidden in them. Dead branches or diseased or rotten it can fall. If a rotten one falls, it cannot only cause great damage to property. In the worst case, even people are injured. As a rule, the tree owner is liable – often his insurance does not even pay. He has to make sure that branches or even the whole trunk do not fall over due to storms or old age. It is best to inspect it even twice a year. The layperson can also tell from this information whether it is sick or weak.
2. Ways to inspect it
Move away from it a bit and look at it. A crack indicates that there is a danger. Remember that an arborist is needed to correct many of these defects, especially if it is large. Some defects cannot be corrected and the best option might be to cut it down. If you need arborist, check this page.
But you can carefully inspect it for defects in the following ways:
Check after storm
Older, possibly free-standing trees that offer a large area of attack for storms must be carefully examined once a year. Checks are also required after extreme natural events such as a violent storm, freezing rain or heavy snow.
Check the vertical axis. It must not change. Also the soil around the roots. The roots must not be bare or very out of the ground. If you notice that the vertical axis is disturbed, it may mean that it will fall at any moment. The only exception is if it is such a variety, so it does not grow completely upright.
Check for dead wood in summer
The first look is dead wood. In summer you can see immediately whether individual branches have no or only dried leaves or whether a tree is sparse in some areas. Dead wood can become a danger if it is broken by storm, snow or ice or the tree itself repels it.
3. Warning signs
The hobby gardener can also see holes in a branch or trunk. Through them, pests and diseases can penetrate the wood. Here you should observe whether something changes. If something moves in the hole, if birds build nests or bats settle down, or even if water leaks, these are alarm signals. A damaged bark can limit the vitality and stability of it. Drill holes, feeding holes, and juice and resin leaks indicate insects that destroy the wood. Other warning signs are cracks, wounds, rotten spots or visible fungal growth and if the bark loosens on larger areas.
Mushrooms in the root area are an alarm signal
Checking the roots is extremely difficult for both the layperson and the professional. If mushrooms grow on the trunk or out of the ground, that’s a warning signal. In addition, symptoms such as dead wood can indicate root impairment.
Tree surgeons know advice
If you feel insecure when checking your trees or discover visible damage, it is best to get help from a specialist. The trained arborist can assess the extent and risk of damage better than the layperson and can clearly determine fungi, pests and pathogens and remedy damage. He has tools such as a resistograph that analyzes the stability of the tree. And the professional can uncover the roots.
Proper pruning is especially important for the care of sick trees. You can remove a single dead branch at an accessible height. However, with a so-called crown shortening, in which not only the shape of the wood, but also its static balance must be ensured, it is often overwhelmed. This also applies to complex interventions in the root area. If roots were torn off by an excavator, for example, a clean cut is very important. Then you should spice up the soil with a loose substrate so that as much water, air and nutrients as possible get to the roots.
Sometimes the expert’s judgment can also be: The tree has to go. A cut down criterion is when it is crooked after a storm or there are cracks in the ground. Then stability is endangered and action must be taken immediately. Even with certain fungi on the roots or when the crown is very bright, it may have to be taken down.
4. Always pay attention to the regulations of the authorities
If the hobby gardener or arborist cuts a tree, he must observe the legal rules. It has to be reported or approved in the regulations of the municipality or the federal state. If you go past the authorities, it can be really expensive.
5. If you don’t care, you may be asked to pay
There are also high costs if, as a property owner, you do not take sufficient care of your trees. It is part of the traffic safety obligation that I guarantee the stability and safety of the trees. If there is any damage and I have not proven to have taken care of it, then I will be liable. After a storm, insurance also only pays for the damage if the owner has done his utmost to avoid it.
These are some of the basic ways to check what the situation is in your backyard. There are some other things you can pay attention to. For example, if you notice woodpeckers, it is usually not a good sign, because they feed on carpenter ants and other pests, the appearance of which is not a good sign.