Trees in some regions of the country more so than others may experience ice storms one time or another. Although they do not occur often, when they do happen they can cause major damage to trees. The species of trees most susceptible are said to be Chinese and Siberian elms, poplars, silver maples, birch and willows. These species are vulnerable because they feature brittle wood. So ice and windstorms can offer major problems for them.
The trees mentioned above are popular because they grow fast and offer great shade. However, fast growing trees commonly have brittle wood and develop weak, V-shaped areas from the base to the torso of the tree that can split due to added weight. In addition, trees that suffer widespread internal rot and decay not visible on the exterior can experience extreme damage.
Another issue that causes concern is that the trees often overhang homes or power lines. So when large limbs break from them due to ice and storms, major and expensive damage can occur.
Damaged trees that suffer major limb or top damage may not be worth the time and expense to save and probably should be removed. Repair should be attempted only if a major portion of the tree remains intact and a fix can help maintain its allure and worth to the property. If the whole top of a tree is gone, it probably isn’t worth the time or the money to attempt to save it. In some cases, this type of damage may better result in replacing the tree with a young version that has the qualities to withstand such an attack in the future.
Moreover, you may not be able to make the attempt to save damaged trees if you believe they are salvageable. Although small lower limbs can be removed with pruning shears or a pole lopper, you may have to use a ladder to reach other damaged limbs and climbing one with cutting utensils in hand may not be something you want to do. In this case, it may be best to contact a professional tree service to perform the tasks. You can find companies that do this type of work in the yellow pages. However, be certain that they have proper liability and workmen’s compensation insurance before you hire them.
So, if one or more of your trees suffer damage due to ice or windstorms, you need to ponder these questions to determine if it is worth the time and expense to make repairs:
1. Does the tree’s condition make it worth the attempt to save it or should it be removed?
2. Can you handle the fix yourself or should you seek professional assistance?
3. What damage is repairable and what is not?
If the damage does not look extensive, then it might be worthwhile to do the repairs yourself.
The first thing to do is to remove broken limbs of damaged trees. If the branch has not broken away from the trunk, then the piece should be removed back to the adjacent branch. Cut out the branch stubs too because, if left on, they can cause rot and decay.
If the top of the tree has broken, remove the snags on the next major interior branch. Don’t top the tree. This will permit small side branches to grow and sustain the height growth.
Three-steps you can perform to assure that you don’t strip healthy bark from damaged trees when removing a heavy, broken limb are:
1. Make the first cut from the underneath side of the branch about 18-inches out from the trunk and about halfway through or until the weight starts to bind the saw.
2. Make the second cut on top of the branch about 1-inch to 2-inches toward the end of the branch and cut until the branch falls free.
3. The third and last cut should remove the remaining branch stub. Make the cut from the top of the branch at its collar (the ridge where the branch attaches to the trunk or another major branch).
At times, it may not be possible to avoid the cutting of a damaged limb from stripping healthy bark. You can repair the damage by cutting off ragged edges of torn bark. Limit the amount of healthy, tight bark from the cut. Next, make a cut into the healthy bark in the shape of an elongated football with the pointed ends running vertically along the trunk or limb or as near parallel to the initial damage as possible.
A cable and brace set up can be used to salvage a tree with a split trunk, but should be done by a professional tree repair service.
Guy wires might work to brace small to medium-size damaged trees that have suffered uprooting. This can be done if one-half to one-third of the tree’s original root system is still in the soil and the exposed roots are compact and undisturbed. Remove some soil from beneath the root mass and then straighten the tree. The roots should be below the existing grade level. Attach two or three guy wires to the trunk and anchor them into the ground 10-feet to 12-feet away from the tree.
You should perform corrective pruning at this point of the salvage project, but don’t take more than one-third of the original branches.
There is no need to use tree paint, but you can fertilize the tree in the spring. Consult with a local nursery, garden center, or county extension officer about proper balance of nutrients in the fertilizer.