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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,
www.sactree.com .

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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