The first step is to decide whether a damaged tree is worth saving. If a large tree has been uprooted or partially blown over, it should be removed. A smaller tree might be pulled and staked upright, provided it has suffered no other major injuries.
If a portion of the tree or a major limb is downed, inspect it for decay. Discolored, spongy or rotted wood all are signs of a tree in trouble.
If there is extensive decay extending into the trunk or portion of the tree left standing, it's best to remove the rest of the tree. Likewise, consider removal if the loss results in an out-of-balance or lopsided tree. Most of these trees never recover and usually lead to long-term problems.
If the storm did not seriously harm the tree's appearance or stability, try saving it. Start by removing broken, split and hanging branches. Then remove jagged branch stubs and other pieces of wood left in the tree.
Make a good pruning cut at the branch collar -- the area of slight swelling where the branch attaches to the trunk or next major limb. Do not paint the cut with black tar or other types of pruning sealant, which have not been proven to help prevent future decay.
For larger downed limbs or splits and cracks resulting from violent weather, contact a professional tree care specialist. Sometimes damage can be repaired by cabling -- using cable to bind weakened areas -- or other techniques. However, this should only be attempted by a qualified arborist. Check the local telephone listings for tree care professionals who are certified, licensed and insured.
Hail also can cause considerable tree damage, especially to trees with thin bark. Hail can strip bark or provide entrance points for canker and shoot blight diseases. For example, Thyronectria canker of honeylocust, perennial canker of peach and Sphaeropsis tip blight of pines may increase dramatically after a hailstorm.
A fungicide application immediately after the storm -- within a day -- can help. If fungicide is applied two or three days later, it will do little good. Products labeled for this sort of treatment include Immunox, Captan and Fertilome's Halt fungicide. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
Mature trees provide shade and beauty to the landscape, and provide value and a sense of "home." Unfortunately, they are not immune to the wrath of Mother Nature.
-- Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.