Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks ... What Are They Telling You?

If you have trees in your yard, winter’s retreat inevitably reveals a plethora of sticks left behind. Winter tends to do its own pruning. The results are strewn below the affected trees.

During spring cleanup, you’re obviously scanning the ground while collecting fallen branches. Consider an additional approach: Look up. What’s happening with the trees that are dropping all the wooden debris?

In the most serious cases, you might spot a “widowmaker,” a broken limb hanging in the tree. These crippled branches can fall and hit a house, car or, worst of all, a person. It’s a good idea to pluck the limb down before it causes any damage.

If you see a limb broken in the middle, the remainder should be trimmed off all the way to the tree trunk. Broken branches sap energy as a tree tries to either heal the wound or shed what’s left of the limb. Pruning the broken branch does the tree a favor.

Similarly, you might discover trees with completely dead limbs. Prune these right away.

If you decide to trim off live limbs, first consider the tree species. Trees can be pruned all year but, depending on the species, some times of year are better than others. Many are best trimmed in the winter months, as explained in a previous post. Given the value of healthy trees to most properties, it’s smart to research and plan before firing up the chainsaw. Consult a professional if you’re unsure.

Spring cleanup is yet another opportunity to learn what’s going on with your property. If you find yourself picking up a lot of sticks, chances are some of your trees need pruning.

Which ones? The volume of sticks is one indicator. The other is found by aiming your gaze skyward at the trees themselves. They’ll never lie.


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