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How to care for storm damaged trees

Pruning, wound repair, and staking are all common practices after a storm. Tips on the proper technique for treating storm-damaged trees can help whether the tree lost some bark, a limb or is uprooted.

A man is supported in a tree to prune upper branches.
Small branches that have been damaged extensively should be removed to the next branch, but never cut off the branch collar.
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service
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Last week’s severe weather flooded fields and basements, and damaged trees and structures across Minnesota.

Many trees snapped in the wind and some were completely uprooted due to the saturated soils. If dealing with fallen trees, here are a few suggestions from tree experts Gary Johnson, retired Extension forester, and Gary Wyatt, Extension forestry educator..

Pruning, wound repair, and staking are all common practices after a storm. Make sure you use the proper technique for treating storm-damaged trees.

  • Small branches that have been damaged extensively should be removed to the next branch, but never cut off the branch collar.
  • Storm damage that leaves a large tear where a limb came down should be pruned smooth by removing jagged and protruding wood.
  • Do not remove large, heavy limbs with a single cut. If a branch is too heavy to support with one hand, a three-cut method should be used.
  • Use proper pruning techniques to safely remove broken branches. 

For minor uprooting of smaller trees (shorter than 25 feet), straightening and guying are both options if correction takes place immediately after damage has occurred.

  • When staking an uprooted tree, be sure that the roots remain covered and moist.
  • Stakes should be placed evenly around the tree and attached securely without pulling on the tree.
  • Thin rope or wire should not be used against the trunk of the tree.

Wound Repair

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  • Remove torn bark to reduce entry sites for diseases and insects or for aesthetic purposes.
  • Split, cracked, torn branches should be removed to points of no damage.
  • Don't remove bark from areas beyond the damage already present.
  • When pruning branches or repairing wounds, it is usually unnecessary to paint the wounds.
  • The exception is during oak wilt season (April, May, June).
  • During this period, wounds made on oaks should be painted immediately with a latex paint or shellac to deter insects carrying the oak wilt disease fungus.

Cabling and bracing

  • Cabling and bracing are most effective as preventative measures and provide extra support for weakly attached branches or stems.
  • Cabling and bracing are frequently used following storm damage.
  • Only trained professionals should perform these installations.
  • Most tree care companies will provide this service.

Most importantly, be safe. Hire a professional if you need a chain saw or ladder to do the pruning, or if there are any downed and potentially energized lines in the area of the tree.
In any situation where there is the potential for personal or property damage (broken limbs hanging high in the tree or unsupported branches hanging over sidewalks), it is very important to immediately call your city forestry department or a reputable tree care company to remove the potential danger. Find a list of certified arborists in Minnesota through the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture. http://msa-live.org/certified-arborists .

Related Topics: TREES
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