A nasty ice storm that occurred in November here in Columbus served as an interactive tutorial on trees, tree damage and the notion that trees do indeed self-prune.

Our property has more than 30 mature (very mature) trees that we inherited when we bought the place. Among them are sugar maples, a gargantuan black maple, oaks of several varieties and white pines. White pines, as many of you know, are delicate. They were the hardest hit by the ice that weighed heavily on tender branches.

When I looked out and saw one of the pines sagging with broken limbs from about 3 feet up from the ground, it left me with that sinking feeling that I needed to do something — immediately — to help the tree. When I went outside for a closer inspection, I saw that the pine tree had beat me to the punch and “self-pruned,” shedding branches clustered around the tree’s base. I knew then that the sinking feeling was just my first problem — and a big clean-up job was the second!

Luckily, there was no damage done to our property or our person. This is not always the case when mature trees launch their own do-it-yourself (DIY) pruning project! As a reminder, here’s a review of the benefits of tree pruning:

Prune to reduce risk of damage to family and property by removing dead branches on your schedule, not your trees’ schedule.

Prune to improve appearance, especially those trees located at the front of the house or on the street.

Prune to improve tree health by eliminating cross-branching, which leads to compromising the strength of those branches which are crossed.

Be proactive, and prune newly planted trees to assure a good shape, adequate sun exposure and good air circulation.

If you have trees on your property so large that you’d have to climb up in them to tackle pruning chores located high up in the tree, enlist the help of an insured professional. And here’s a tip from Kris Medic, out-going Purdue Extension educator: If you have a mature tree that needs to come down, plan to have the tree cut down when the ground is frozen. This will help minimize damage to your yard caused by heavy tree sections falling and gouging the ground.

Our trees are our friends, beautiful to behold and beneficial, too, adding visual interest and value to our properties. We can give them a boost along the way to keep up their appearance and assure their structural integrity for happy, healthy trees for decades to come.

Becky Pinto has been a Master Gardener since 2002 and the Master Gardener newsletter editor since 2005. She’s a Silver Level Master Gardener, based on cumulative volunteer hours served in the program. Send comments to therepublic.com.

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