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Have you checked your trees lately? This is a great time to do it!

An inspection of this Siberian Elm in the backyard of a Minneapolis residence
 revealed a split was developing between two main trunks.
The tree was taken down upon recommendation of a certified arborist.
Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications
As leaves fall in November we can see the branching structure of trees, making this a good time to inspect for tree health. Winter is an ideal time for tree care and maintenance. 

Start looking up at your trees and see how healthy they are, is the advice of Dr. Robert Polomski, Extension Specialist at Clemson University and winner of the 2019 GardenComm Gold Medal for the webinar:


Dr. Polomski’s webinar will show you MANY examples of trees that need help and show you clearly how to follow the seven steps for tree check-ups.

What kind of tree do you have?

But first, make sure you know what species of tree you are looking at and perhaps even what cultivar, if it is a maple or other “improved” tree. Trees vary in the response to injury, so knowing the species is critical.

How to do a 'Tree Checkup'
Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications

What are the 7 steps for his recommended biannual (2/year check up)? He starts with the top of the tree and moves progressively to the base and roots.
  1. Dead hanging or broken branches
  2. Leaning tree
  3. Multiple trunks
  4. Weak branch unions
  5. Trunk and branch cracks
  6. Decaying wood
  7. Root issues, especially stem girdling roots
Example of weak branch union.
Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications
Not only should you check your trees twice a year, Dr. Polomski recommends you call in professionals, certified arborists to help you keep your trees in the best shape.

See the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) for finding a certified arborist.
Find an Arborist

And, here's another good website:
How to Hire a Tree Care Professional

Watch the webinar and I think you will have “improved eyesight” for seeing problems in trees. Remember to look up, inspect trees!

More Resources

Here are some current Extension articles to help you make good selections for your home and garden:

Stem girdling roots are roots that encircle
a tree trunk. They can strangle the tree (kill it) or
make it much more likely to "fail" or topple in a storm.
Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications
Trees for Minnesota

Extension's Recommended Trees for Minnesota Guide.

Costello, L. B. Hagen, K. Jones. 1999. University of CA. Pub. 21584
Recognizing Tree Hazards: A Photographic Guide For Homeowners. .

Dunster J. E. Smiley, N. Matheny and S. Lily. 2013. Tree Risk Assessment Manual. Champaign, IL. ISA.

Gilman, E. 2012. An Illustrated Guide To Pruning. 3rd Ed. Delmar, Clifton Park, NY.

International Society of Arboriculture’s Trees Are Good

International Society of Arboriculture's Tree Hazards

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and USDA Forest Service. 1996. USDA Forest Service NA-FR-01-96. 20 pp.
How to Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees.

Smiley, E., N. Matheny and S. Lily. 2011. Best Management Practices: Tree Risk Assessment. Champaign, IL. ISA.

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor
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