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Danger signs of trees toppling, dropping branches

Look up at the limbs of redwoods and other evergreens to make sure no broken or damaged branches are about to fall.
(Photo: Debbie Arrington)
What to watch during wet, windy winter weather before things fall

What can make a massive 80-foot redwood topple over? Saturated soil and a strong gust of wind.

Sacramento has seen both this week as an atmospheric river pushed through record amounts of rain, accompanied by wicked winds.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento Executive Airport received a record 2.11 inches Wednesday, eclipsing the 1.22-inch mark for that date set back in 1979. Another 1 to 2 inches is forecast for Thursday and Friday, with wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph.

In such wet and windy weather, trees can be dangerous. They can drop limbs or uproot completely.

Years of drought have shrunk the root balls of many big trees, particularly coastal redwoods, making them especially vulnerable.

During these winter conditions, evergreens are at greatest risk. That includes redwood, pine, fir, spruce, juniper, cypress, yew and other trees that retain their foliage year round. Needles become saturated with rain, doubling or tripling their weight; that strains the branches and makes the whole tree top heavy. Foliage also is more apt to catch wind than bare branches.

Trees that grow close together offer each other support; their roots become intertwined and they hold each other up. Solitary lawn trees are more likely to fall.

So are trees that withered away during years of drought including elms, birches and other deciduous trees. Strong winds will knock dead or dying branches off trees of any kind.

What are the danger signs?

Some are obvious. The tree starts leaning; that’s not good. Cracks in the soil around the base of a tree may indicate root movement; that means it’s losing its stability.

Look up; are broken branches dangling above or caught in other branches? Are heavy limbs starting to droop down precariously? Are there signs of branches starting to separate at the trunk? Take photos and get help.

In these cases, call a certified arborist immediately. Rope off the area around the tree and stay off the surrounding soil until help comes. The tree may be stabilized before it actually falls.

For more advice on trees, contact the Sacramento Tree Foundation, .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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