Tree Maintenance: A SoCal Thanksgiving Tradition

Basket of vegetables with radishes, tomatoes, and carrots.At this time of year, many of us are anticipating the celebration of Thanksgiving.  It’s a rich American holiday where family and friends gather in gratitude for the harvest at a bountiful feast honoring all that is good in life.  It’s a time when many are grateful for simple things, such as our homes and gardens with trees, flowers and even a few late season vegetables and herbs such as parley or sage that always contribute to this savory holiday meal.

It’s also the time of year when our beautiful gardens are now ready for a well-deserved rest in Southern California, including those stately sycamore trees with their falling gold and orange leaves that provided us with welcome shady green relief during our hot summer days.  As you’re raking up those leafy old friends and trimming back your perennial shrubs, it’s also time to look up at the tree branches and consider pruning trees that might have grown a little too large or are too close to our homes for comfort.

Fall color leaves in red, orange, yellow.Whether you planted the trees or a previous owner did, they need seasonal attention and now is probably a good time during the cooler months as winter approaches.  The all too short rainy season in Southern California is nearly upon us and so are the strong Santa Ana winds that can topple older, larger trees or those that have become unsteady due to age or disease.  Tree pruning or thinning or removal also is essential now as our long El Nino drought conditions are also a potential contributor to wildfires.

Upscale brick home with barren tree in yard.At Helfrich Associates, we have come across a number of homes where tree maintenance has been neglected or never attempted.  Many times trees that are planted too closely to a home cause root penetration of pipe plumbing problems or the larger limb that snaps off during a heavy wind or rainy storm that breaks a window.  Your homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover plumbing issues and might or might not cover home damage from falling limbs.  In addition, large trees when they fall do not always respect property lines and can make for uncomfortable discussions with neighbors if damage results on their side of the fence.

Not too long ago, we assisted some unfortunate homeowners, and their insurance company, deal with the after-effects of a large majestic tree that did a real number on a beautiful two-story home. When this massive, old tree came crashing down, it not only broke an upstairs window, but it also crushed the entire upstairs bathroom and fell all the way down to the first floor.  The force of the impact of this giant tree was so severe that it caused the actual foundation of the home to shift as though a bomb had exploded.  Thank goodness no one was hurt.

Small Crane and Worker

While this type of accident is relatively rare, it had an unexpected ripple effect that required us first to design and install piers to bring the whole house and foundation back to a level condition restoring the structural integrity of the home before repairs were made.  Falling tree accidents frequently have unexpected catastrophic consequences.  If they hit the garage, they can cause water heaters fueled by natural gas to rupture, leak or explode, and the same goes for automobiles parked in the garage with their gasoline tanks that can quickly catch fire.

Person using a chainsaw to cut a tree stump vertically.When these types of accidents occur, the homeowners are typically displaced for weeks or months depending on the severity of the damage.  You can easily understand how it can be impossible or unsafe after such accidents to keep the gas, electrical and water service on.  In these situations, the removal of the downed tree can also affect the whole neighborhood as crews with special training and heavy-duty equipment work to lift large limbs or trunk pieces that must be removed slowly, and carefully to avoid additional damage to the home.

Our unlucky homeowners are now back happy and safe in their lovely home and wiser when it comes to annual tree maintenance.  The weeks between the holidays at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are almost upon us and you might want to consider integrating a little outdoor tree pruning and shaping into your outdoor decorating routine.  From a weather perspective, the days are cooler and ideal for a DIY project to shape your trees or many gardening services now have extra time at their disposal to help with winter yard maintenance.

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