JCMG: Summer limb drop or what is happening to my trees now? | Farmandranch


Crash … bang … a call comes over the work radio, “There’s a big branch down.” There have been quite a few calls like lately this month. Arriving at work, we are seeing branches that have come down over night. Most have a diameter of 10-12 inches across. Cedar elms, oaks, pecans and most other trees can be subject to summer limb drop or sudden limb drop.

These are large limbs of any type of tree that “suddenly” fall out of the trees. It usually happens on a windless, hot day and there are no splinters on either the branch or the trees. Sudden limb drop has been happening during the night also. This happens throughout the country and world — Europe and Australia have seen this happen.

Most branches that fall are from older trees. According to an article by Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor, many of the branches are “very large, mostly horizontal, sweep upward toward the end and extend out beyond the main canopy.”

Theories on why trees drop their branch are wide ranging. From high humidity in the trees on a hot, dry day to tissue shrinkage of the tree’s cell tissue, so far there is no answer.

What can be done is to look at or really survey your trees with a critical eye. As you walk around your mature trees, ask yourself, where would this branch land if it feel out of the tree? Are there branches that need to be pruned out? Another option is to make an appointment with a reliable tree service to inspect your trees.

If you hear the crash of a branch coming down, before you start to “fix” it, take a few precautions. Make sure there are no power lines involved, if there are, call Oncor at 888-313-4747 or if you are a rural resident, call United Cooperative Services. Once you have established a perimeter, check to make sure that there are no more branches ready to fall.

If you are familiar with the use of a chainsaw, or by using a pair of heavy loppers, you can start removing some of the smaller limbs off of the tree. Trying to remove a large branch is a challenge if you don’t have the correct tools. A tree service can help remove that branch.

To make sure that no more damage is being done to your tree, another call to the tree service company or an arborist to make sure that the pruning is done correctly. If you feel that you can, a powered pole saw or a manual one will help you prune those tall branches. Do not use either one of those pieces of equipment on a ladder.

To try to prevent summer limb drop, according to Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor, exposure of the trunk flare, quality pruning during the life of the tree may help. Along with proper watering.

Long, low, and slow watering encourages deep root growth. To correctly water a tree, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommendations are to place the hose or bubbler a few feet from the drip line of the tree. This is where the edge of the leaves are on the tree. Water during the evening as the transpiration of the tree will be less. Check the city or county website to see what the water restrictions are for where you live. Knowing the soil type helps to figure out how much water to put on a tree. With most of Johnson County having clay soil it takes awhile for the soil to absorb water. With the limestone on the south end of the County, be careful that there isn’t much water runoff.

Unfortunately, with the drought conditions it does take quite a bit of water to make a difference with the trees. Long, low and slow watering is the recommendation. Another option would be to place soaker hoses around the trees at the edge of the drip lines. Again, check with the water restrictions of your city or our county.

The good news is that September is here, and we hope that the rain and cooler temperatures will follow.

Stay cool, and keep on gardening!

Mentioning a website by name does not mean endorsement by the Johnson County Master Gardeners.

This article contains information from the dirtdoctor.com website and the Texas A&M AgriLife websites.

Joyce Block lives in Alvarado but works in Fort Worth listening for tree branches to drop.