Don't go out on a limb when pruning storm-damaged trees.
Surviving a storm is only half the battle for your landscape. After the damage is done, it's time to clean up and repair.
Here are a few tips on repairing a storm-damaged landscape.
- Remove all the debris so you don't trip over it.
- Decide whether it is feasible to save a tree.
If there is heavy splitting of the bark so the cambium is exposed or the main trunk is split, the tree will probably not survive and should be removed. Also, if there are so many broken limbs that the form of the tree is destroyed, replacement will be the best option.
Topping is not a recommended pruning procedure. Topping is a practice where all the main branches are cut back so there are only stubs left.
Though new branches will normally arise from the stubs, they are not as firmly attached as the original branches and will likely break in subsequent storms. Also, the tree must use a lot of energy to make these new branches, leaving less energy to fight off disease and insect attacks. Often, the topped tree's life is shortened.
- Broken branches should be pruned back to the next larger branch or back to the trunk.
If cutting back to the trunk, do not cut flush to the trunk but make the cut at the collar area, between the branch and the trunk. Cutting flush with the trunk will leave a much larger wound than cutting at the collar and will take longer to heal.
Large limbs should be taken off in stages. If you try to take a large limb off in one cut, it will often break before the cut is finished and strip bark from the tree.
Instead, first make a cut about 15 inches from the trunk. Start from the bottom and cut one-third of the way up through the limb. The second cut should be made from the top down but started 2 inches further away from the trunk than the first cut. The branch will break away as you make the second cut. The third cut is made at the collar area to remove the stub that is left.
Note: This can be dangerous. Consider hiring a trained arborist to do complicated work such as this. Also, a good arborist knows how to prune trees so that storm breakage is less likely. Preventing damage is better than trying to fix it once it has happened.
-- The garden calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County Office and written this week by Dennis Bejot, county Extension director. For more information call the Extension office, 843-7058, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.