With early-season snowstorms bringing heavy, wet, clinging snow to shade trees yet to lose all their leaves, the danger of limbs and branches breaking or weakened is very real to homeowners.
A hasty decision made after a damaged tree is discovered following a storm could result in losing a tree that could have been saved with the proper care.
The Arbor Day Foundation offers some first aid tips that can make a difference between giving your trees a good chance of survival and unnecessarily losing them:
*Take safety precautions - Look up and look down for downed power lines and dangerous hanging branches that look ready to fall. Stay away from downed power lines and call your electric cooperative for assistance. Don't stand under broken limbs that are hanging or caught in other branches.
*Leave the big clean-up jobs to the pros - If large limbs are broken or hanging, or high climbing or overhead chainsaw work is needed, call a professional arborist (tree service).
*Take care of broken branches still attached to a tree - Removing the jagged remains of smaller broken limbs is a repair you can make after a storm. Prune smaller branches where they join larger ones to help the tree recover faster. Call an arborist to cut back large branches to the trunk or a main limb.
*Repair torn bark - To improve appearance and eliminate access and hiding places for insects, carefully use a chisel or sharp knife to smooth ragged edges of wounds where bark has been torn away. Do not expose any more of the cambium - the greenish inner bark - than is necessary, as these fragile layers contain the food and water lifelines that run between the roots and leaves.
*Resist the urge to over-prune - With branches gone, a tree may look unbalanced or naked. But it will slowly heal, grow new foliage, and return to its natural beauty.
*Don't top your trees - Untrained individuals may urge you to cut back the branches, relying on the mistaken assumption that to do so will help avoid breakage in future storms. Topping - cutting the main brances back to stubs - is one of the worst things you can do to your trees. The stubs will tend to promote growth of a lot of weak branches that are even more likely to break in a storm. Topping also reduces the amount of foliage the tree depends on for food and nourishment needed for regrowth.
Your valued, beautiful shade trees need a lot of TLC after being damaged by storms. Make sure they get it, and when in doubt, contact a tree specialist.