First Aid for Trees
In the aftermath of a major storm, the first impulse is often to clear away as much as possible. But rash decisions can often result in removing trees that could have been saved. Following best practices helps determine whether your trees can survive. Here are six rules to follow:
- Don't try to do it all yourself. If large limbs are broken or hanging, or if high climbing or overhead chainsaw work is needed, hire a professional arborist.
- Take safety precautions. Look up and down. Be on the alert for downed power lines, hanging branches and broken limbs. Stay away from any downed utility lines, low-voltage telephone and cable lines. Fence wires can also become electrically charged.
- Remove any broken branches still attached to the tree. Removing the jagged remains of smaller-sized broken limbs is a common repair that, if done properly, reduces the risk of tree decay. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones (see figure 1).
- Repair torn bark. Carefully use a chisel or sharp knife to smooth the edges of wounds where bark has been torn away. Limit cambium (greenish inner bark) exposure, as these fragile layers contain food and water lifelines between roots and leaves (see figure 2).
- Resist the urge to overprune. Don't worry if your tree appears unbalanced or naked. Trees heal quickly, grow new foliage and return to their natural beauty.
- Don't top your trees. Professional arborists advise that "topping," or cutting main branches back to stubs, makes your tree more dangerous during future storms and reduces the foliage required for nourishment and re-growth (see figure 3).