They add character to neighborhoods, beauty to rolling hills and depth to flat prairies. Whether they have guarded your home for a few years or even for several decades, your trees need some extra attention this autumn. A few simple treatments make a big difference when spring emerges and your trees are already strong, beautiful and healthy.

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Inspection Time

Before winter sets in, walk your property and perform a visual inspection of all of your trees, both young and old. The purpose of your inspection is to identify potential diseases, or growth patterns that may lead to damage as wind, snow and ice arrive in the area.

Examine the trunk and branches of each tree. Notice their growth patterns, and how each branch is attached to the main trunk unique weed pipes. One of the biggest offenders which leads to weak trees is a co-dominant stem. Co-dominant stems are common in several varieties of trees including Bradford Pears and some Birch species. While they pose a big danger, they’re relatively easy to spot with the naked eye. Look at the main trunk of the tree, and search for any branches that look like they’re competing with the main trunk. Visually, a co-dominant stem will appear as a fork-like growth off the main trunk. It will be larger than the tree’s actual branches, and typically grow vertically alongside the trunk.

Co-dominant stems pose a great danger to the tree itself, and to your property. Because this stem is competing with the trunk, the tree is weakened, making it susceptible to split under pressure of wind, snow and ice, and take the tree tumbling down with it. Co-dominant stems should be removed immediately to ensure strength, stability and future growth. For a young tree, you may use a pruning tool or small saw to remove the stem at its base, outside the branch collar. More mature, larger co-dominant stems may require a heavy saw, or the assistance of a professional since removing branches from large trees can be a dangerous task. Keep in mind that you can kill a tree if proper pruning is not performed.

Examine young trees for damage from lawn mowers and other gardening tools that may have occurred throughout the season. Small nicks attract disease and insects, which inhibit proper growth and strength. PVC pipe or fiberglass tree wraps placed around the base of young trees can help you avoid damage. Also, be sure to remove any weeds that grow within a young tree’s dripline, as they are fierce competitors for water and nutrients.

Older trees should be closely monitored. While many appear strong and stately, their sheer weight and size can create a huge liability that may not be covered by insurance if they fall on your property – or your neighbor’s. Look for areas in the tree that seem to have heavy growth and foliage. Examine your older trees for dead bark, cankers or lesions on the trunk or branches, or wilted, mis-shapen or discolored leaves. If any of these is present, your tree may need special care. Several online resources, including the Tree Care Industry of America ( and the International Society of Arborculture ( websites include tips and frequently asked questions about caring for your trees.

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