Beautiful trees can turn unsightly when upper branches are severed

Topping trees can make them susceptible to disease

Homeowners often consider topping an acceptable practice when they need to reduce the risk of tree damage to their homes.

Topped trees are easy to spot—the tree's natural shape has been altered, while a properly pruned tree looks as if no work has been done at all.

Topping is a procedure that drastically removes or cuts back large branches in mature trees. The tree is pruned or sheared much like the way a hedge is cut, leaving large exposed stubs. The practice also is known as heading, stubbing, tipping, lopping or hat racking. Regardless of what it's called, topping is a less than desirable practice, and many homeowners don’t know it can be dangerous.

Healthy trees can increase property values by up to 20%, but topped trees can decrease property values. (Click to Tweet)

The severe cutting makes the tree grow back faster in the form of sprouts, which are weaker and more susceptible to disease, insects and rot, said Jeff Miller, president of Horticulture Management Associates LLC. “Weakened trees are much more likely to fall during storms and thus become hazardous,” Miller said. “If a tree needs to be topped, it’s better to remove it and plant a new tree in its place.”

Topping can cost in the long term, too. Because of the fast re-growth, many trees are topped every few years. Miller said healthy trees can increase property value by up to 20%, but topped trees can decrease property values. “Topped trees also can become a liability,” Miller said. “An unhealthy tree full of disease and decay is an accident waiting to happen.”

Tiny ticks carry big diseases; prevention is key

Summer is nearly upon us, and with the warmer temperatures come ticks. Spending time outside can make you and your family vulnerable to the diseases these insects can carry.

To prevent tick-borne diseases, the key is to be aware of ticks, and seek help immediately for any unexplained flu-like symptoms.

“It’s often the ones you don’t see that cause a problem,” said Dr. Amy Johnson, a family nurse practitioner in Bedford County. “Typically the ticks have to be attached for up to 24 hours,” but symptoms usually occur seven to 10 days after the bite.

While Rocky Mountain spotted fever isn’t as prevalent as Lyme’s disease caused by ticks in Virginia, Johnson cautioned that there are similar diseases caused by ticks that mimic the symptoms of RMSF: fatigue, fever and joint pain. RMSF is the worst, Johnson said, because if untreated it can lead to organ failure. She explained that doxycycline is the best treatment, but those working or playing outdoors need to exercise caution because the antibiotic increases sensitivity to sunlight.

If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers, making sure to get its head. If the tick is embedded so deeply that you can’t identify the head, visit a health care provider to have it removed. (Click to Tweet)

Johnson advised that the best way to prevent tick-borne illness is to treat pets for ticks and check yourself regularly. “Use bug spray, wear long pants and avoid high-grass areas.”

If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers, making sure to get its head. If the tick is embedded so deeply that you can’t identify the head, Johnson recommends visiting a health care provider to have it removed.

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Looking for a healthy and easy recipe for dinner? This is it!

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension

See Recipe

Bell peppers can lower risk of chronic diseases

Whether they’re red, yellow, orange, green or some color in between, bell peppers are packed with a rainbow of phytonutrients.

The naturally occurring compounds act as powerful antioxidants to protect against cell damage from free radicals.

“Brightly colored phytochemicals probably play a large role in the association between high fruit and vegetable intake and lower risk of chronic diseases—especially cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer,” said Kathryn Strong, a registered dietitian and a Virginia Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agent serving Fairfax and Arlington counties.

Just a cup of peppers provides more than 100% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, which can lower cancer risk and protect against cataracts.

A cup of red peppers provides one-third of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, which helps preserve eyesight and fends off infections.

Strong recommends eating bell peppers as a snack. Cut them into strips to dip in hummus or a low-fat dip.