Spring provides much-needed relief from the cold temperatures and bleak landscapes of winter. However, while spring may be a cheerful season, warmer weather also means higher levels of rainfall and snow runoff.
Water may be essential to tree growth, but flooding and oppressive rainfall can cause serious tree damage. In this blog, we discuss five ways that spring precipitation may affect your trees and what you can do to protect your landscaping.
Ways Spring Precipitation May Damage Trees
Most of the damage that heavy levels of precipitation does to trees comes from either how the water moves around the tree or from the environmental changes that occur with water settling around the tree. High water levels may cause any of the following.
- Bark Damage
Once flood waters reach a certain height, they can begin to flow at high speeds. When large amounts of water crash into trees, the water may break off and wash away pieces of bark, leaving the trunk beneath exposed to the impact damage caused by the next wave.
Additionally, standing water can soften tree bark, making it more vulnerable to impact damage such as debris knocking into the trunk due to the flow of water.
- Inadequate Aeration
When water flows into an area, the liquid fills up all the spaces in the soil. This amount of water reduces the amount of oxygen that moves through the soil. Large amounts of flooding can even completely undo any aeration measures that were previously taken.
If the water continues to saturate the soil for several hours, the deep roots may stop receiving oxygen altogether. We’ll discuss the effect of water on tree roots further in section five.
- Increased Risk of Disease
As with any other absorbent item, trees are vulnerable to mold and fungus once they become saturated with moisture and remain wet for a long period of time. These growths are most likely to occur below the water level.
Trees that stay wet for more than three hours also have a high risk of diseases caused by insufficient nutrients. Flood waters replace the existing bacteria in the soil with other organisms that can cause nutrient imbalances.
- Leaning or Toppling
If your property is hit by high flood waters, the impact could do more than damage the bark. In some cases, flood waters can push trees into a tilted position. Severe flood waters can even uproot or knock trees over. This outcome is especially likely if you have trees that are top-heavy, diseased, poorly cared for, or weak.
Often, weakened roots contribute to a tree leaning or falling due to flood conditions.
- Weakened Roots
When water saturates soil, it changes the soil’s structure. Wet soil offers little support or anchoring for trees, weakening the grip the roots have in the soil. This change in soil structure is why a tree may shift even after the flood waters clear.
If roots stay soaked for too long, they may develop rot or mold. These diseases can take time to develop but can mean that the tree is more vulnerable to toppling and other types of permanent damage during the next big storm.
While some forms of water damage can be remediated, it’s important to protect your trees in advance to reduce the risk of irreversible damage.
Steps to Take to Protect Your Landscaping
Begin preparing for seasonal rainfall at the end of winter. In Illinois, average precipitation levels begin to rise in March and can stay at peak levels for months. Take the following steps to protect your trees from rain, puddles, and floods:
Consult with an arborist. Before making any changes to your trees’ nutrients and drainage, consult with us. Professional insight ensures that you fully provide for each tree’s needs.
Create drainage. You want water to flow away from your trees’ roots rather than create puddles there. You may need to create furrows for the water to travel through or bank up low-lying land to create optimal drainage.
Follow recommendations for pruning. Trees are more likely to suffer permanent damage if they’re uneven or improperly cared for. Be sure that your trees are professionally pruned or trimmed before the spring showers start.