26 May 2014
As the cold and wet weather conditions begin to set in across South Africa, homeowners should start taking precautionary measures to protect their homes against damage caused by trees on or surrounding their property.
Exposure to tough weather conditions adds stress to trees, greatly increasing the chance of them falling onto the home or boundary walls and causing severe damage.
This is according to Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, who says storms, strong winds, hail, rain and rapid temperature fluctuations can take a toll on trees, increasing the risk of them falling or branches breaking off and causing damage. She says while the stress on trees is unavoidable, there are a number of things homeowners can do to minimise the potential damage that trees can cause during winter.
She says damage to trees as a result of poor weather conditions includes cracks, root or stem damage, browning or even plant death.
“During autumn most trees lose their leaves. This means that the active root growth ends, even though the trees continue to absorb water and nutrients from the ground. Most trees also enter into a state of hibernation; however, exposure to tough weather conditions could be an added stress on the trees. These conditions greatly increase the chance of them falling onto the home or boundary walls and causing severe damage.”
She explains that if trees are well-maintained throughout the year, they will grow stronger. She says the healthier and stronger the trees are, the less likely they are to cause damage to the property.
Fourie shares tips to help homeowners mitigate the risks of trees damaging their properties...
Trim your trees for accessibility and safety
The key to minimising branch breakage lies in maintaining a good pruning system. Therefore, it is a good idea to trim the branches on old trees. When weak and frail branches are removed, the entire tree will become less vulnerable to breakages or toppling over. It is easier to trim trees during autumn as the branches have no leaves making it easier to see the tree’s structure. However, it is advisable to hire an Arborist (expert in maintaining trees) to trim big tree tops to avoid unnecessary injury.
Plant trees in the correct location
Before winter sets in, homeowners should use the autumn months to dig up or relocate trees that are planted in places that are likely to cause trouble. Troublesome locations might include areas such as near foundations, fences or a place where the tree could damage the building in the event that it falls. When homeowners plant new trees, they should always ensure that the soil and height requirements for the tree are met by the selected location.
Water the trees
Homeowners should make sure that they give trees sufficient water during the cold and dry periods of the year. The occasional watering of trees during winter when no rain is forecast is incredibly important for the wellbeing of the tree as a healthy tree is less likely to fall.
Fertilise and spray for bugs
Trees continue to take up water and nutrients during autumn, therefore it is important to fertilise ahead of winter rains to prevent any chemical burn. By placing compost under the tree, it will help retain water and reduce temperature extremes in the soil. This will act as a blanket for the tree’s roots. In addition, it is equally important to spray trees with insecticides to avoid bugs and insects from attacking them.
Adding layers of protection
Wrapping the bark of the tree with a special tree blanket can assist to prevent any further winter damage to the bark of the tree. Also consider placing a small fence around the base of your trees to keep any animals from nibbling or damaging the tree and its roots.
By implementing the above steps, Fourie says homeowners have a better chance of avoiding damage caused by trees during unpredictable winter weather conditions as well as the financial headache of home repairs.