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January 6, 2013

Weathering the storms: Trees and shrubs need protection, too

Well, it’s here in earnest for the first time in a couple of years:

It’s winter.

Warm coats and gloves, a full tank of fuel, and a good snow shovel are easy to remember to have at the ready to keep the people in your life warm. But don’t forget to also protect your outdoor landscaping, because even the sturdiest-looking trees can be brought down by high winds, heavy snow and ice.

A little advance planning in the yard, goes a long way toward protecting them, says Mark Chisholm, a third-generation arborist from Howell, N.J.,

“I’m a great believer in storm-proofing or preparing for anything that will have the most impact on your lifestyle,” said Chisholm, spokesman for Stihl Inc., a manufacturer of outdoor power tools.

“Try to prep your house and yard if you have the time,” he said. “Clear rain gutters so water will flow. Remove loose lawn furniture from decks. Stabilize trees around the house by cabling or tying them down, especially those that you know have structural flaws.”

Here are more storm-proofing suggestions that will pay off over time, starting with determining which trees in your landscape are the most vulnerable:

Get to know an arborist or tree-care professional; now. “When a storm hits, you’ll likely be prioritized as an existing customer,” said Chisholm, who works with the power industry clearing debris left behind by severe weather, including Hurricane Sandy in October.

Get a pre-storm assessment to identify trouble spots. Decaying and leaning trees should be pruned, staked or removed, especially those threatening dwellings or utility lines.

Think safety during cleanup. “The stuff on the ground won’t hurt you unless downed power lines are involved,” Chisholm said. “It’s what’s overhead that’s dangerous. Stress fractures or dead and broken limbs can come crashing down and do serious harm.”

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