Garfield County Cooperative Extension

Pruning Storm Damaged Trees

Rick Nelson Extension Educator, Ag/4-H

Although here in Garfield County ice damage was light, there are many areas dealing with significant ice issues in the landscape. Winter storms may cause serious tree damage. Often a homeowner will have to decide whether a tree can be saved or not. Here is a checklist on care of a storm-damaged landscape.

1. Be careful: Slippery ice and chainsaws do not mix. Wait until all ice has melted before beginning work.

 

Check for downed power lines or hanging branches. Do not venture under the tree until it is safe. If large limbs are hanging precariously, a certified arborist has the tools, training and knowledge to do the work safely.

2. Cleanup: Remove debris so you do not trip over it.

3. Decide whether it is feasible to save a tree. If the bark has been split so the cambium is exposed or the main trunk split, the tree probably will not survive and should be removed. If there are so many broken limbs that the tree’s form is destroyed, replacement is the best option.

Topping, where all the main branches are cut and there are only stubs left, is not a recommended pruning procedure. Though new branches will normally arise from the stubs, they are not as firmly attached as the original branches and more likely to break in subsequent storms. In addition, the tree must use a lot of energy to develop new branches, leaving less to fight off diseases and insect attacks. Often, the topped tree's life is shortened.

4. Prune broken branches to the next larger branch or to the trunk. If cutting back to the trunk, do not cut flush with the trunk but rather at the collar area between the branch and the trunk. Cutting flush with the trunk leaves a much larger wound than cutting at the collar and takes longer to heal. Middle-aged or younger vigorous trees can have up to one-third of the crown removed and still make a surprisingly swift comeback.

5. Take large limbs off in stages. If you try to take off a large limb in one cut, it will often break before the cut is finished and strip bark from the tree. Instead, first make a cut about 15 inches from the trunk. Start from the bottom and cut one-third of the way up through the limb. Make the second cut from the top down but start 2 inches further away from the trunk than the first. The branch will break away as you make the second cut. The third cut, made at the collar area, removes the stub that is left.

Note: Pruning can be dangerous. Consider hiring a trained, certified arborist to do major work. In addition, a good arborist knows how to prune trees so that storm breakage is less likely to occur. Preventing damage is better than trying to fix it once it has happened. The Arbor Day Foundation maintains an excellent Web site that contains detailed information. The URL is: http://www.arborday.org/media/stormindex.cfm

Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is implied.

 

Oklahoma State University, U. S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local governments cooperating.  Oklahoma State University in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices, or procedures."

 

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