The storm passed and left many broken trees and shrubs in its wake. We were lucky in Douglas County, but damage is still evident. Here are some simple steps to follow when cleaning up your yard.
Look for utility lines that touch tree or shrub branches. Treat all lines as energized lines and contact local utility companies instead of trying to do the work yourself.
Clean up debris already on the ground. Branches there are easy to trip on when evaluating the rest of the damage.
Look for hanging limbs. Branches may be partially broken away from the tree but still attached, or they may be completely broken and caught in a fork or on another limb. Remove these branches first.
If possible, use the three-cut method: Make the first cut on the underside of the branch, at least 6 inches away from the trunk or next connecting branch, and about halfway through. Then cut from the topside of the branch a few inches farther away from the connection point. When the weight of the limb pulls the branch, it should break off at the point of the lower cut. This takes the weight off before making the third cut, which should be close to the attachment point, but outside of the branch collar, or raised area, where the branch grows away from the trunk.
Clean up broken ends of branches still attached to the tree. A footlong spiky stub will grow sprouts that will be weakly attached. The stub also is an entry point for insects and fungi that cause disease problems. A clean cut will heal faster. Use the three-cut method again if the stub is heavy; most importantly, make a smooth cut just outside of the branch collar.
Trim torn bark. If branches break too close to their attachment points, the bark may tear on the trunk or on viable limbs. Use a sharp knife to carefully trim only the ragged edges of the bark. This will help the tree heal these wounds more quickly.
Consult an arborist. If broken limbs are high in the tree, or if you are unsure about how to make the pruning cuts, arborists are trained in safe tree pruning and removal. Many local arborists may have waiting lists right now, but it is worth the wait to have a trained professional do the work. Hire a tree worker who carries a certification from the Kansas Arborist Association or the International Society of Arboriculture.
If more than 50 percent of the tree is broken, or if the trunk is split, consider removing the tree. If you are unsure, consult a professional.
Have patience. Many damaged trees will recover. They may appear unsightly now, but new growth will begin in a few short months. Plants have an amazing ability to recover from mild injury.
Don't forget about your plants until the next storm. Proper maintenance pruning significantly reduces risk of injury.
More specific pruning methods and pictures of how to make good pruning cuts can be found in the K-State publication C550 "All About Pruning." Search for "C550" on the Web site www.oznet.ksu.edu/library, or call the Douglas County Extension Office at 843-7058.
I hope this finds you warm and safe.