43March 15, 2018

I don’t think that anyone had a clue that the snowstorm last week would create so much devastation to the trees in our area. At home, we lost 2 major limbs on one dogwood and 2 major branches on our ornamental flowering plum. It looks as though we will have to cut down both trees due to the extent of the damage. Some of our neighbors had major damage to every tree in their yard.

If you remember, we had similar damage to trees after the winter of 2015. Many of the Japanese maples had small to large branches damaged by the large amount of snow that we had that winter. Many people tried to fix the damage, and some were successful. By taking a page from that year’s repair manual, here are the things that you need to do:

If you have branches that were ripped off the tree, there isn’t much that you can do except to cut up the branches. If a part of the branch is still hanging by a thread to the tree, you need to remove the branch in sections. You need to start cutting up this type of branch at the far end of the limb. You will be taking about 20% off the limb with each successive cut. Once you are within a couple of feet of the trunk, you want to make a cut at the underside of the branch, cutting about 25% of the way upward into the broken branch. At that point, you can start cutting from the top of the branch downward toward the cut you made at the underside of the branch.

The reason that you are doing this extra work is because of the weight of the branch. If you try to cut the whole branch off the tree in one cut near the trunk of the tree, you will find that about 75% of the way through the cut, the limb will rip away from the trunk and damage a large section of the bark on the tree. This torn section of bark will be an area for water and insects to enter and further damage the tree in years to come. Taking off major branches can be highly dangerous to do. If you have no experience doing this type of removal or if you have to cut down a tree and you are not 100% sure how to do so, you would be better off calling a tree service to do the work.

In some cases, a branch may be cracked but still attached to the tree. This type of branch may be able to be saved. You will need to secure the branch to the trunk if the tear is near the trunk. If the break is part way up the branch, you will need to secure the two sides of the branch together. Many people in the past years have tried wrapping string around the break or they tried duct tape etc. This won’t create the stability of the branch that the branch needs to heal.

If you can get some stainless steel screws and washers, you can screw the pieces back together. Remember that you have to have screws long enough to go through the break but not out the other side of the branch or the trunk of the tree. You may need help in holding the branch in place while you screw the branch to the tree trunk. If the branch is large it could suddenly let go, so be extremely careful. Place the stainless steel washer on the screw and screw the branch back together in several places. Once the branch is securely attached, you can them seal the break with a product called grafting wax. Most local garden centers will sell grafting wax. I’m not sure the box stores will carry it. The grafting wax is used to seal around the area where the break occurred and over where the screws are attached. This will seal out water and keep insects out.

In past years, this method has worked well on branches that were 50% or more attached to the tree, or if less than 50% of a branch was cracked. It is time-consuming to do correctly, but it may save your tree.

I will stress again that cutting tree limbs or cutting down trees can be dangerous work. If you are not familiar with doing tree work, call in a tree service to do the work. It’s not worth your life to do it yourself if you are not familiar with doing the work.

Well that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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