Growing Green: Caring for Your Storm Damaged Trees
By Jessa Kokett, Horticulture Intern
University of Minnesota Extension
Enjoying the warm weather is one of the many perks of summer. These glory days bring many great opportunities to the people of Minnesota; such as spending time on the lakes, camping, and gardening. Unfortunately, heat and humidity often lead the way to severe weather. Summer storms have proven to be just as damaging as some of the blizzards we experience. After a storm, you may find “old oaky” to have lost branches or even the whole tree to be completely uprooted. This sight may be very stressful for some. Here are some instructions as to what to do next.
First step in caring for a toppled tree is to take a look around. Make sure the tree has not fallen on electric wires or hanging under tension (I have heard these hangers referred to as “widow makers” by tree professionals.) If this is the case, seek professional assistance.
After analyzing your safety around the tree, you must assess the damage. In doing so, here are some questions to ask:
- Other than storm damage, is the tree basically healthy and vigorous? If the tree is healthy, not creating a hazard, and did not suffer structural damage, it should recover if you take first aid measures immediately.
- Are major limbs broken? The larger the limbs, the longer it will take for the tree to recover.
- Are at least 50 percent of the branches and leaves intact? A tree with less than half of branches remaining may not be able to produce enough food to survive another season.
- How big are the wounds? The larger wound is in relation to the limb, the less likely it is to heal, leaving the tree susceptible to disease and pests. A 2 to 3 inch wound on a 12 inch diameter limb will seal over with new bark.
- Has the leader, the main upward-trending branch been lost? The tree may live without its leader, but it will be stunted or deformed.
- Is my tree leaning? Trees leaning from root breakage usually do not survive for long. Larger, mature trees rarely survive attempts to pull them back into place.
The questions above will help you make a decision as what to do with storm-damaged trees.
- It’s a keeper: If damage is minimal, prune branches, repair torn bark around wounds, and let the tree begin the process of wound repair.
- Wait and see: If the tree appears to be borderline case, step back and think it over. After pruning broken branches, give the tree some time to recover; a decision can be made later.
- Say goodbye: If the tree is already weakened by disease, the trunk is split, or if more than 50 percent of the crown is gone, the tree has lost survival edge.
There are some prevention tactics you can take so you don’t find yourself in any of these predicaments. Some trees are more likely to be damaged. Some species, such as willows and poplars are softer and are more likely to be injured. Picking the right tree early on could save you a few headaches later on. No matter what tree you have: never top trees. Topping creates serious hazards and dramatically shortens the life of a tree. Do not use paint or wound dressing to cover wounds. These materials do not help the tree and actually may interfere with the tree’s wound sealing process.
With the right care, your “old oaky” could live a much longer life.
Jessa Kokett is a Horticulture Intern with University of Minnesota Extension.