The snow and ice have created a magnificent winter wonderland.
Although the winter conditions are great for sledding and skiing, it is miserable for driving and is hard on landscape trees and shrubs. The heavy snow and ice accumulations on branches and trunks can be quite dangerous and cause major damage.
Here are safety tips when while you clean up the damaged trees in the landscape:
Assess whether a damaged tree is worth saving. If large limbs have been broken, or the tree has a large split down the middle, consider removal. To assist with the decision, inspect the downed portions of the tree for decay. Discolored, spongy, or rotted heart wood are all indications of a tree in trouble. If you find extensive decay extending back into the trunk, or portion of the tree left standing, then it is best to remove the rest of the tree. Likewise, if the loss results in an out-of-balance or lopsided tree consider removal. Most trees never recover and only lead to long-term problems.
If the storm damage did not seriously harm the appearance or possible stability of the tree, then consider saving it. Start by removing jagged branch stubs, branches that are spilt, and limbs that appear to be injured. Make a good pruning cut at the branch collar. The branch collar is the area of slight swelling where the branch attaches to the trunk or next major limb. Cutting the branch too close to the trunk or leaving too large of a stub will lead to long-term decay. Do not paint the cut with black tar or other types of pruning sealant. This has not been proven to help prevent future decay. If you feel the exposed wound is just too ugly, paint it with latex housepaint.
Larger pruning jobs, or damaged branches extending over the house our utility lines are better left to be worked on by certified arborists. Likewise, large splits or cracks resulting from violent weather can sometimes be repaired by cabling and other techniques. Also, call on tree care professionals who are certified arborists who are licensed and insured.
As for preventing more damage, it is unwise to try and knock the ice off the branches. Trees and shrubs face a test of strength when ice and wind weigh heavily on the limbs. It is best to just wait to see what happens. Trying to knock off ice is asking for trouble. The ice and limbs are both brittle and any attempts to remove the ice may result in more damage.
- 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.