Helping Your Trees Survive Storm Damage
A tree damaged
during a storm does not mean the tree is lost. With proper pruning, you can
restore the shape and health of many of the damaged trees. A tree that appears
damaged can still be structurally sound, and capable of providing benefits to
you and your community.
limbs can be accessed safely within easy reach, pruning can be done immediately
but it will not harm the tree to leave clean-up cutting until March or just
before the spring thaw. Unless you have hanging or drooping branches that pose a
safety hazard, it is best for now to leave trees alone if ice remains on them,
since removing ice-laden branches may damage the tree and there may be personal
danger at this time.
If work is out
of easy reach, hire a certified professional and supervise any work that is
done, particularly ensuring that clean-up cuts are made properly. Do not attempt
to remove branches where hydro wires are involved. Report them to Hydro and wait
for their staff to remove them.
Clean Up Broken Branches
straight, clean edge close to the mother branch or trunk is critical because
broken branches and loose or torn bark can harbour insects and disease
organisms. Pruning cuts should be made close to but beyond the branch bark
ridges' and the collar at the branch attachment (Figure
1). Avoid making a wound too close or flush to the trunk, which will open it
up to infection and slower closure. Do not cut into the branch bark ridges or
branch collar, since this zone is an effective barrier to decay between the
branch and trunk or a mother branch. Flush cuts also make the wound size bigger
than it needs to be, exposing trunk tissue to organisms that cause decay. It is
preferable to cut the branch back to the collar rather than leaving a branch
stub, even though the wound area will be larger than that left by a stub. For
smaller trees, curved shears make closer cuts than straight ones, causing less
damage to stem tissue. Place the blade so that it cuts upwards or diagonally,
instead of down.
25mm in diameter should be cut with a saw. Be extra careful with chain saws, not
only for personal safety, but because they can damage live bark on trees.
When removing a
terminal branch be careful not to cut the branch bark ridge of the lateral. For
a mature tree, use the three-cut system and make the final cut at an angle
parallel to the branch bark ridge of the highest major lateral branch, leaving
When cutting a
terminal branch back to a lateral on a young tree, cut up parallel to the
direction of the lateral. Leave a short stub, 1/4 inch above the topmost bud. If
you cut down, you will usually cut into the branch bark ridge and often split
be done before the spring growth spurt. Early priming will minimize the size of
the wounds and hasten their closure. When temperatures plummet below -20oC,
the hardiness of tissue near pruning cuts may be reduced, thus, it is best to
wait until just before growth begins in the spring.
Remove Torn Bark
Torn and damaged
bark should be removed to avoid surface areas that can harbour insects and
disease organisms. When cleaning a wound, use a sharp wood chisel, gouge or
pruning knife to cut the loose bark at right angles to the wound surface. Cut it
back to firm bark. Smooth bark so it will not trap water and debris. Ensure that
the bottom is tapered rather than squared-off to avoid collecting water at the
base of the wound. Leave as much firmly-attached live bark as possible, even if
the live bark forms islands or peninsulas in a wound area.
Maintain Tree Vigor
Wounds caused by
breakage and tearing of limbs and bark begin the process that can lead to decay,
caused by fungi and bacteria. In a healthy tree, wounds and decay are
compartmentalized by protective zones that prevent the movement of
microorganisms into and out of wounded wood, confining and deterring the
progression of decay. Callusing around the wound or cut will form, which will be
doughnut-shaped if a proper cut was made, and eventually close over. However,
the rate of callusing or closing depends on the tree's vigor. Practices that
encourage growth not only speed wound closure but reduce the possibility of
decay. Vigor can be maintained by wise irrigation, pest management and
dressing of wounds have proven to be of little or no value in hastening wound
closure. These serve a primarily aesthetic function. Sealing compounds have also
been found to be of little use. Trees will seal, form a callus and close wounds
themselves. The best action is to minimize exposed surface areas by pruning back
to the branch collar, remove torn and dead bark, maintain healthy conditions and
allow the tree to close or form a callus on its own.
Replant In the Spring
receiving advice from a certified tree-care professional, you are faced with
tree removal, consider planting new trees in the spring or fall. Try to plant
locally hardy native species; for example, Sugar Maples, Red Maples, Green Ash,
and Red Oaks. For smaller trees, consider serviceberries.
the tree species, consider the tree's ultimate size, shape and preferred growing
conditions. For example, if planting underneath overhead hydro lines, ensure
that the tree's mature height is lower than the hydro lines. Re-establishing
trees will take many years, so get started with the replanting this year. Fact
sheets on planting are available at the Land Owner Resource Centre in Manotick
If the split is
clean and most of the wood is still intact, push the branch back to its normal
position as soon as possible, and support it by tying or propping. Clean up the
rough edges, and drill through the wood, from one side then from the other
through the centre of the split. Place a threaded rod through the hole and use
washers, being careful to trace around the washer and cut bark behind it.
Insert two more
rods above it, separated by a distance equal to twice the diameter of the limbs.
Avoid too much pressure. If the split is not clean or most of the wood has
separated, it is best to remove these branches to begin the process of forming a
callus and closing.
Leave Bending Trees Alone
occurs, tree branches can bend until the tips touch the ground and eventually
retain their original position after the spring growth spurt. If breakage does
occur, remove the branch. This process of bending back into place can be
hastened by pulling branches up and tying them together, providing cross support
to hold them in position. However, this should only be done in spring. Do not
try to pull branches up if their tops are stuck in the ice, particularly with
evergreens. You will damage the branch tips.
Deciduous vs. Coniferous
The above tips
apply to conifers as well as deciduous trees. When the top breaks off most
conifers, branches in the topmost whorl will bend upward and one usually
dominates to become the leader or a latent bud may grow into a new leader. If no
leader develops naturally, tie one of the topmost branches upright to induce its
transition to becoming the new leader.
Hiring a Contractor
branches are out of easy reach, contract the work to a reputable tree
maintenance company. Make the decision to keep or remove trees on a case-by-
case basis with the help of a tree expert, such as a tree care company with a
certified arborist. When hiring a contractor for either tree removal or clean up
many tangible benefits to homeowners, including:
thinking of removing a damaged tree, reconsider these benefits and get advice
from a certified tree care professional. Good luck with your tree care.
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