Arizona can expect an intense monsoon season every summer starting around mid-July and ending sometime towards the end of September. High heat levels can pose health hazards, especially for older Arizonans. Flash flooding can take over entire roads and present dangers to drivers and cyclists.
However, some of the biggest hazards that come with monsoon season are located right in your own back or front yard. Heavy rain and high wind pose a threat to your trees!
Proper tree care is an important way to keep your house, car, and lawn safe from harm during monsoon season.
Read on for our best tree care tips and tricks to keep your trees upright in the face of stormy weather!
How Do Arizona Monsoons Affect Trees?
During monsoon season, we tend to see extreme highs throughout the day and night followed by large amounts of moisture, fast-moving wind, and intense thunderstorms. Let’s take a look at how each of these weather patterns could affect your trees.
Abnormally high temperatures cause trees to sweat out water in a process called evapotranspiration. Trees push water from their root systems up through their trunks, branches, and out through their leaves.
This helps transport nutrients through the entire tree. When it occurs too frequently, the tree may start shedding leaves, making it difficult for the tree to replenish its system with even more nutrients.
Moisture and Rain
When moisture and rain are excessive, the soil becomes over-saturated. Even a tree with healthy roots may find that they have a weaker hold on the ground as pliable, wet soil gives them more room to shift and even fall.
High winds, of course, increase the likelihood that branches will snap or trees will fall. This is especially worrisome of trees are weakened from infectious rot.
The lightning that accompanies a thunderstorm can cause quite a bit of damage. In August of 2019, there were over 97,000 lightning strikes in a 13-hour period!
At best, lightning-struck trees will weaken. At worst, they’ll catch on fire. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do to protect our trees from lightning, but there are plenty of things we can do to prepare them for high heat, high moisture, and high wind!
Signs That Your Trees Are Vulnerable
Every few months, go out and examine the trees in your yard for signs of vulnerabilities. We’ll discuss some of the biggest issues you should look for.
Cracking, Decay, and Dead Wood
Some of the easiest vulnerabilities to spot are cracking, decay, and deadwood.
Cracking usually occurs at the base of branches. Check the spots where your branches meet your tree trunk for signs of cracking. Examine any unusual dips or angles in your branches to see if they are the result of cracking.
Look for spots along the trunk and branches that seem to be overtaken with fungus. If your trunk has any holes or crevices, search for signs of hollowness. Both fungus and hollowness indicate decay.
Like decay, deadwood can be found on any part of a tree. It is often discolored and brittle to touch.
Poor or Unusual Branch Structure
If you don’t know much about the trees growing in your yard, poor branch structures may be hard to spot. Do a bit of research to get a sense of how your trees are supposed to grow before heading out for visual inspection.
Typically, branches should not grow horizontally from the trunk. You also want to see bends that grow in a U-shape, rather than a V-shape. Additionally, branches that don’t seem to be supporting their own weight or that are resting on nearby branches have a poor branch structure.
Pests are bugs that nest in and feed off of your tree, exacerbating your tree’s health issues. Some common pests in Arizona are the Paloverde beetle and the Armyworm, amongst others.
While these pests will increase your tree’s health problems, they may also help you spot what were already problem-trees. Most of the Arizona pests you’ll encounter target trees that are already experiencing some decay.
Root problems don’t always make themselves evident but they are one of the biggest sources of damage during monsoon season. Without a healthy and well-anchored root system, your trees will not withstand the wind and rain the Arizona summer brings.
Root problems occur when a tree’s root system is crushed, severed, or damaged. They also occur when the roots do not have enough space to grow properly, either due to dense, unforgiving soil or nearby structures.
A full, lush tree may seem like a healthy, thriving tree. However, a tree that is too dense and top-heavy is at risk of falling or losing branches in a storm.
When a canopy is thinned out, wind can travel more easily through the tree’s branches, reducing resistance to the pressure caused by wind. Plus, thinned branches are lighter and more pliable.
Tree Care Tips and When to Implement Them
Our first tree care tip, as you’ve seen, is to inspect your trees a few times a year. What do you do if you find evidence of any of the above vulnerabilities? Furthermore, what other precautions can you take to protect your trees during monsoon season?
Keep Your Trees Healthy and Prevent Soil Compacting
Throughout the year, make sure that you are using the right fertilizer for your various trees. Do your research and make sure that you are neither underwatering, causing dryness and decay, or overwatering, causing a weakened root structure.
Use mulch to cover roots that are beginning to protrude from the ground. Try not to disturb the soil surrounding the root structure of your tree or you run the risk of severing healthy roots.
Make sure that when you are planting new trees, you’re doing it the right way. Don’t plant non-native trees as they may interact poorly with your surrounding plants and may suffer under the pressure of an unknown climate.
Remember that trees that do well in some parts of Arizona may not do well in others. For example, citrus trees that thrive in Phoenix tend to suffer in Tuscon.
Finally, make sure you’re giving all of your trees enough room to grow. Root systems spread vertically and horizontally, and if they are impacted by other structures such as your home’s foundation or the root system of a neighboring tree, they are likely to fail over time.
Prune and Trim as Needed
Depending on the tree, you may need to prune anywhere between twice a year and every other year. You need to go beyond the lower branches that you can reach from the ground. Break out a ladder or call a professional to get those hard-to-reach branches.
Pruning should be both reactionary and precautionary. Cut away branches that are cracked, decaying, or dead. Lessen the pressure of unusual branch structures or split trunks. If you have a tree with a split trunk, you will need to prune the subordinate trunk to let the other one take on its role as the dominant trunk.
As a precaution, thin your branches until you can see the sky when standing at the base of your tree. It is best to call a professional for this type of pruning so that you don’t run the risk of cutting away too many healthy branches and stunting the tree’s growth.
Stake Young Trees
When trees are less than a year old, they may need some additional support during monsoon season. Gather several 6- to 8-foot stakes that are about three inches in diameter, two 20-inch segments of rubber tubing, and some heavy-duty wire.
First, figure out the direction the wind usually blows. Put one stake on each side of the tree so that they are opposite from one another and in line with the wind.
Drive the stakes at least two feet into the soil with enough distance from the tree that they will not damage the root structure. Once they are secured, cut your wire into two pieces that are wide enough to reach from pole to pole and wrap around one another.
Slide one piece of rubber tubing over each piece of wire. Attach each end of both wires to both poles so that they meet on either side. Slide the rubber tubing so that it is positioned against the tree trunk.
Oftentimes, you can leave your staking up for one growing season before taking it down or changing it.
Remove Lost Causes
If trees exhibit serious signs of root damage, decay, or dead wood, they will need to be removed. As much as it pains us all to see beautiful trees come down, significantly damaged trees are a huge hazard come monsoon season.
Bring in the Tree Specialists
Tree care professionals are always your safest bet when monsoon-proofing your trees. They are adept at identifying problem areas, cutting away the right bits and pieces, and ensuring structural soundness.