Loosening up in the Backyard

April 12, 2024 · 2 minute read
Loosening up in the Backyard

We love our backyards! It’s a place to get away from the rest of reality, to do whatever we please, and during the pandemic, we realized this personal place was more important than we could have ever imagined. We built decks, patios, porches, playsets, and everything we could dream up, and now a few years later it raises some considerations about our trees. If you take a moment to check the trees that you’ve used to hang up your playsets, hammocks, slack lines, and string lights, you may notice that they are desperately trying to tell you something.

There are many ways to utilize the trees in your backyard to make the most of that space, but only a few ways to do it so that you don’t hurt your beloved trees. I noticed after I moved in with my fiance that she had an incredible willow oak in her backyard, but it had a couple of hooked lag screws in the trunk. I‘m not sure what their use was originally, but I backed them out as carefully as I could and allowed the tree to heal its wounds. It’s been less than a year and the ¼ inch hole is noticeably smaller, so our trees can recover very quickly!

Putting hardware in trees does injure the tree such as nails, screws, and bolts, but it should only be done as a last resort to help the tree. Trees can grow with imperfections that occasionally need a brace rod or cable to help support them from falling apart. Please use a professional to do this, as the standards are very specific and the consequences could be devastating! This hardware should be inspected annually to ensure they are not fraying, backing out, or drooping considerably. Most of the time no action is needed, but don’t overlook the importance of getting an experienced eye.

Instead of using hooked screws in our trees for hammocks or whatever we’d like to hang, we should consider using textiles and temporary straps to attach various things to our trees. If you decide to use some kind of rope or strap, you could consider tying a stationary knot that holds some space for the tree to grow, and cinching knots are also okay as long as the tree can open up the space as it grows. Fixed knots tight against the tree are okay for temporary use, but eventually, you’ll notice a visible warping, as the tree starts to try to grow around the foreign object. A lot of the time we forget about this. If you use a wire for a zip line or dog leash around the trunk of the tree, without wooden blocks as spacers, the tree will end up getting girdled as it tries to grow and you’ll end up with a dead tree! 

So it’s great to enjoy our backyards, we just need to recognize that trees are alive and not just a post in the ground. We should appreciate their shade, beauty, and ability to support our outdoor functions by considering their sacrifice. Take some time every year to loosen and reset those wires, ropes, slack lines, and textiles around your tree.