Cabling and bracing are tree support systems used to maintain a tree with structural defects. One of the most common defects among trees is the formation of codominant stems. (see Step 1) Codominant stems are hazardous particularly when bark is included in the union. It is a weak connection because the stems are not connected where there is bark. As the tree grows it pushes the leaders apart similar to driving a wedge between them. Thus it is a weak connection and a prime candidate for cabling.
Another defect or hazard occurs when a limb reaches far beyond its normal range for the particular species. This is called over extension. If a large limb with a lot of weight particularly near the end of the limb exists and you do not want to the remove the limb, you could have it cabled. Cabling is used to safely further the longevity of your tree in order to enjoy it for years to come.
Sometimes the tree (due to a structural defect) may begin to split, particularly if codominant stems exist. This would be an occasion for bracing. When a tree begins to crack, a properly placed brace can prevent failure. Usually if braces are inserted, cables will need to be added as well. If it is a tree of value and it can be safely maintained, cabling and bracing could work for you.
If you decide to cable and or brace your tree, it is important that you keep your eyes on it. You "keep your eyes on it" by having a qualified arborist periodically (annually is best) check to make sure the hardware is not deteriorated and to be sure that a new cable does not need to be placed higher in the tree as the tree grows.
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