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Should You Cable Your Tree?

Snow and ice can weigh down weak or dead branches, creating a falling hazard.

We may think it looks pretty as the branches on a tree dance around like a kaleidoscope of green leaves, blue sky, and bright sunlight. But the spectacular show you’re witnessing is putting your tree under constant stress. Splits, cracks, breaks, and more can happen at any time when the wind picks up or when the weather pours rain or snow across the area. Simply based on how different trees grow, some are naturally more susceptible to these stresses than others, and may require cabling to make stable.

Cabling is a simple process. Anchors are drilled into two sections of a tree between which a cable will be connected to either end for support. Picture a hammock, only with a taught cable in between two anchors instead of a comfy lounger. Cabling helps redistribute weight evenly between the two branches to prevent them from falling. More than one cable can be installed if a tree has multiple stems or limbs that need help.

One instance where this may be required is when a tree grows with what is called codominant stems or leaders. This structural weakness occurs when a main trunk splits into two or more lead branches. These leaders can develop with a V-shaped crotch or a U-shaped crotch. The V-shaped crotch is the most unstable. Over time, these main leaders will grow bigger, and heavier. This puts more strain on the crotch where they meet and causes an increased danger of the tree literally splitting apart. As an example, if you hold a 5 pound weight in each hand and lift your arms up in a V-shape, you can feel the weight trying to force your arms downward. If you continuously increase the weight, eventually your arms will fail and the weights will drop. Now if we tie a string from one arm to the other, your arms will be able to handle more weight than they can naturally hold; allowing you to keep the heavy weight up in the air.

Another instance where cabling is needed is with overextended, heavy or weakly attached limbs that are under stress. These kinds of branches act similarly to a tree with codominant leaders where a branch stems off from the main trunk and experiences aggressive growth. While the tree is young, this branch is still smaller and dependent on an obvious main trunk. At some point, this branch will get too big and put too much weight on the main trunk. Then, it will break off and possibly cause serious damage to whatever is below it, whether it be your car, home, or even yourself! As my last example, imagine holding out your leg with a 25 pound weight attached to it. At first you may be able to lift it, but over time your leg will get tired and give out on you. If we tie a string around your shoulders and connect it to your leg, again, it will help support your leg and keep it suspended

Cabling is extremely important to save your tree from breaking and causing damage. We’ve talked about deadwood a lot recently and how falling dead branches can mortally wound your tree, cause life threatening injuries, or result in extensive damage to your property. But the consequences are even greater when it comes to live branches breaking off and falling. Live branches are far heavier than dead ones, making them a wrecking ball as they crash down to the ground. After storms, we’ve seen cars nearly sliced in half in their driveways and roofs obliterated by unsecured branches that should have been cabled. Luckily Giroud Tree and Lawn has trained crews of experienced climbers ready to help you and your property stay safe all year long by making sure your trees are properly cabled and ready withstand whatever nature dishes out. Even if you have newly planted trees, corrective or structural pruning will train the trees to grow properly so you don’t need to cable or remove branches in the future. Don’t let your trees go unprotected. Call for your free consultation with a Giroud ISA Certified Arborist today!


Author: Cindy Giroud

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