Local Landscapes: Repairing storm-damaged trees


Dr. Jeff Wilson



The recent storms wreaked havoc on landscapes across north Mississippi. Trees were broken, torn, twisted, and even ripped from the ground. People have worked tirelessly ever since to remove downed trees and clean up their yards. While this cleanup process is necessary, the main concern is for the safety of the workers. 


It is also important to correctly cut or prune these trees. If you are not absolutely sure about your ability to safely remove a tree, then hire a licensed professional. These workers have been trained to safely and effectively remove and prune tree debris.  


The greatest factor that determines a tree's ability to recover is its size. Smaller, vigorous trees are more likely to survive than larger ones. The degree to which the tree is injured also affects its ability to recover. Here are a few tips on cleaning up these storm damages trees. 


On small limbs, make a clean cut at the branch collar to avoid bark splitting. With large, heavy limbs, first make a cut on the lower side of the limb about 1 foot from the trunk, cutting about one-third of the way through. Make a second cut on the upper side of the limb about 6 inches further out than the first cut. This will allow the limb to break without splitting. You can then remove the stub with a single cut at the branch collar. Make sure all cuts are clean and do not leave any protruding wood. These cuts are best if left unsealed.  


If you have a limb or branch that is split, it may be repaired using bolts and cables. This should only be performed by a certified arborist. Leaning trees that are less than 4 inches in diameter may be straightened and staked in an upright position. These may need to be left for up to two years in some cases. Make sure no cables or wires girdle the tree during this period. Light pruning may be necessary at staking time to balance the damaged tree.  


If roots are exposed, then cover with existing or sandy soil to only the original depth. Never pile heavy soil over the root area. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will prevent roots from drying out.  


If there is ever any uncertainty about what to do, stop. Simply call a professional and get their help. It might not only save the tree, it might save someone's life.  


For more information, contact your local MSU Extension office and ask for Information Sheet 1355, "Repairing Storm-damaged Shade, Ornamental, and Fruit Trees." Or download it at MSUCares.com under the publications page.



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