Coping with Storm-damaged Trees
Homeowners assessing tree damage caused by recent storms will want to
make a few important decisions soon. Small trees with minor damage can
probably be taken care of by the homeowner, but large, mature trees likely
will need the help of a professional tree service.
It can be hard to decide whether trees with severe damage should be completely
removed. Homeowners often are reluctant to cut down a tree, either because
of sentimental attachment or because the tree provides shade or screening
that won't quickly be replaced.
But the first priority should be safety. Assess whether the tree itself
or some of its branches are in danger of falling now or in the near future.
If the tree is not an immediate danger, you may be able to plant a new
tree nearby and wait for it to grow a bit before removing the old tree.
Just because a trunk is split does not necessarily mean the tree will
die soon. Large, split branches or trunks that have not broken off the
tree can be braced and possibly saved by an arborist. If limbs have fallen
completely off the tree, there is nothing that can be done to save the
branch. In either case, the wounded area in the tree will always be a
weak spot that is susceptible to disease, rotting and insects.
For trees that just have a few damaged limbs, it is relatively easy to
remove small, lower branches with loppers or a pruning saw. Use sharp
pruning tools appropriate to the size of the job to ensure a clean, smooth
cut. Use hand shears on branches up to one-quarter inch in diameter, loppers
on branches up to 1.5 inches in diameter and a pruning saw on branches
more than 1-inch thick.
While you're at it, look for branches that already have broken free and
may have left a jagged stump on the trunk. Make a cleaner cut on those
branches to help the tree wound seal more easily.
For larger limbs, or those too far up to reach, hire an arborist or other
professional service. They'll have the appropriate tools and equipment
to safely bring down large or high limbs so that the tree, house or other
nearby objects will not be damaged.
In general, pruning sealants or paint are no longer recommended for treating
pruning wounds. There is some controversy regarding these products, but
generally they have not been shown to be helpful. Some scientists believe
the sealant actually may interfere with the tree's ability to form a protective
callous over the wound.
Find more detailed information on pruning in Extension publication "HO-4,
Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs," (online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-4.pdf)
or contact the Purdue Extension office in your county and ask for a printed
copy. For more information on hiring a professional tree service, see
Extension Publication FNR-FAQ-13-W, "Why Hire An Arborist,"
(online at http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-FAQ-13-W.pdf).