Posted by: Mickey Goodman | August 1, 2013


The following blog is out of my comfort zone – way out. Since I have a very black thumb, I NEVER write about gardening. But the proliferation of falling trees in our fair city and my home’s proximity to literally scores that could come crashing down, prompted my looking into solutions:

Ante Bellum Mansion

Ante Bellum Mansion

The first thing that attracted us to our Atlanta neighborhood was the meandering streets and old growth trees that shaded every yard and turned the suburban subdivision into a veritable forest. In the Spring, it’s a wonderland of dogwoods and other blooming trees; in the fall, a spectacular canvas for Jack Frost.

This summer, my beloved trees have turned deadly and each day when Mother Nature sends another storm our way, I quake at the potential of one or more that could come crashing down onto my roof.

My next door neighbor was one of the unlucky ones. Two healthy-looking 40-foot trees came thundering down about 2 a.m. one morning. Fortunately both fell across the street rather than on her roof and landed between a jazzy red convertible parked on the street and a mailbox, damaging neither. The county came out and cleared the tree from the street, but she was left with a hefty bill to cut down and remove the remaining debris that incidentally left long gashes in her newly sodded Zoysia.

A new couple down the street had barely been in their house a month when two gorgeous oaks in their front yard were struck by lightning. Not a good welcome to the neighborhood. Another had a lighning-damage pine that fell across electrical lines, leaving a portion of the neighborhood in the dark for hours.

But what can a homeowner do to avoid potential disaster? It’s hard to understand why trees that appear healthy and upright one day, fall the next, often with deadly results. Arborists blame the drought of past years that have caused tree roots to become so shallow and unstable they are no match for the continuous pop up storms and winds that have kept the soil over-saturated.

According to Chris Heim, a certified ISA arborist at The Davey Tree Expert Co., (  the first step is to hire a certified arborist to examine the trees in your yard and identify those that are potentially hazardous. “Regular check-ins for your trees from the arborist will ensure that they’ll weather future storms better too,” he says.

“There are five things homeowners should look for if they’re worried about their trees,” says Heim.

1.     Exposed roots or lack of soil near the tree’s roots.

2.     Wilted leaves, discolored foliage and/or a loss of leaves.

3.     Broken, cracked and split branches caused by the wind.

4.     Unstable or changing lean of the trunk.

5.     Pest infestations.

All these are cause for alarm and possible removal before accidents occur. However, there are things a homeowner can do to save their trees. “Thin the tree canopy to allow the wind to blow through it instead of against it,” says Heim. “Also removes potentially hazardous dead or weak branches.” Other tips include adding much to protect new sensitive roots and improve aeration and treating the trees for insects.

Walter Reeves (, Atlanta’s gardening guru,  has a world of information on his website and radio program, (“The Lawn and Garden Show” on WSB radio 750 WSB and 95.5 FM). His advice for homeowners who want to save trees that are already partially out of the ground begins with digging a cavity under the raised portion of the root ball to allow the tree to settle back into place after its pulled to vertical. Next, attach a rope to a truck or SUV and gently pull the tree into position so it’s inside its original growing level in the soil. Then, stake the tree five to 10 feet apart until it is stable again. To protect the bark, use an old bicycle inner tube over the wires attached to the trunk. Leave the stakes in place for a year until the roots provide firm anchorage.

“Although defective trees are dangerous, not all of them need to be removed immediately,” says Heim. “Some defects can be treated to prolong its life. Regular maintenance can make a world of difference when it comes to tree strength during a storm.

I definitely plan to take Heim’s advice and have an arborist come look at two very suspicious trees, both leaning toward the house. It’s only money, right?




  1. I live in New York and several years ago, a tree fell on top of a car driving on the Saw Mill River Parkway, killing a young mother. With declining state budgets, our lives are imperiled by trees coming down on public roads, too.

    • At least 6 people have died here due to falling trees and a 3-year old was hit by a branch and has a serious brain injury from which he may not recover.

  2. The one that worries me most is just over the property line on my neighbor’s side.

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