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Taking Care of Storm Damaged Tree

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

I bet there isn't a yard that did not have some kind of wind and rain damage to trees and shrubs after that horrible storm last week. It could be minor like finding small dead twigs and branches on the ground to major losses of canopy. It is important to use proper pruning techniques to help restore these plants' beauty and health, as well as to protect the safety of the home area. If a tree has been severely damaged, it may not be especially attractive for a few years, but proper pruning can help extend its life, and eventually, its beauty. Remove damaged limbs as promptly as possible to prevent possible personal injury and also to help prevent insect and disease problems from developing on the trees. When doing repair or routine pruning, make the cuts back to the nearest desirable limb or to the branch bark ridge on the trunk. Do not leave stubs of limbs showing after the pruning. Such stubs are good "conduits" to start wood decay and increased insect activity.

broken trunk

Please resist the temptation to "top" trees to remove damaged branches. Use judicious selection and proper pruning methods on only the limbs that need repair. "Topping", or simply trimming off the ends of all the branches at the top or sides of the tree, often results in a very unattractive tree with a flush of weak branches sprouting from the pruning cut, called a "witches broom". Such branches are usually weak and have narrow branching angles, which can lead to further breakage. Topping is not likely to actually repair the damaged parts of the tree canopy anyway.

For the first year or so after the damage, the tree may produce many unbalanced branches. Remove the weaker or undesirable limbs as they appear. The storm damage and pruning can cause a severe "shock" to the tree. Routine annual pruning should be done when most trees are dormant, but repair pruning needs to be done as soon as feasible. Professionals may be needed to do the work, especially on large trees. Following storms, some contractors may approach homeowners to do repair work on trees. Homeowners should remember these tips on proper pruning when approached by contractors. Be sure to ask about their pruning and clean-up techniques, experience, insurance, local references and other pertinent information. If possible, soliciting several bids may be appropriate on larger jobs. To help ensure trees are pruned properly, inquire if the company uses certified arborists (see link below). For more information on the care of storm damaged trees and general pruning guidelines, check out these on-line fact sheets:

Tornadoes - Disaster Resources (U of IL Extension)

Thunderstorms (U of IL Extension)

Family Disaster Supply Kit (U of IL Extension)

Iowa State Extension: Managing Storm Damaged Trees

Minnesota DNR: Storm damaged trees repair & replacement checklist

Find a Certified Illinois Arborist

Iowa St. Extension: Pruning Trees: Shade , Flowering and Conifer

University of Illinois Extension: Selecting Trees for Your Home

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