There are several treatments a homeowner may use to correct the minor damages that storms inflict. Before any of these techniques are attempted, consider hiring an arborist. Except for the cases of pruning small branches, and straightening slightly leaning, small trees, consult an arborist. The following are the most common types of corrective treatments:
Corrective Pruning: Small branches that have been damaged extensively should be removed to the next branch, but never cut off the branch collar. Use the proper pruning techniques to safely remove broken branches. If a branch is too heavy to support with one hand, a three-cut method should be used.
Figure 17. Proper three cut method for pruning limbs. © USDA-Forest Service.
Straightening, Staking and Guying: For minor uprooting of smaller trees(<25-ft.), straightening and/or guying is an option if correction takes place immediately after damage has occurred. When staking an uprooted tree, be sure that the roots remain covered and moist. Stakes should be placed evenly around the tree and attached securely without pulling on the tree. Thin rope or wire should not be used against the trunk of the tree.
Figure 18. Proper staking procedures and methods. Note the slack in the forms of attachment. © Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Circular # 858.
Wound Repair: Torn bark may be removed to reduce entry sites for diseases and insects or for aesthetic purposes. Split, cracked, torn branches should be removed to points of no damage. Bark should not be removed from areas greater than the damage already present. When pruning branches or repairing wounds, it is usually unnecessary to paint the wounds. The exception is during oak wilt season (April, May, June). During this period, wounds made on oaks should be painted immediately with a latex paint or shellac to deter insects carrying the oak wilt disease fungus.
Cabling and Bracing: Cabling and bracing are frequently applied treatments following storm damage, but only trained professionals should perform these installations. Most tree care companies will provide this service. Cabling and bracing are most effective as preventative measures, and provide extra support for weakly attached branches or stems.
Figure 19. Correctly placed cables may reduce the danger of branches splitting in storms. Photo by Tony Sackett
Knowing When to Hire an Arborist: Possibly the most important question to address when evaluating storm damage is whether to hire an arborist to do the work or to attempt it yourself. If you need a chainsaw or ladder to do the pruning, if there are any downed and potentially energized lines in the area of the tree, or if you are wondering if the tree is worth saving, you need an arborist. In any situation where there is the potential for personal or property damage (broken limbs hanging high in the tree or unsupported branches hanging over sidewalks), it is very important to immediately call your city forestry department or a reputable tree care company to remove the potential danger.
The directories Tree Care Companies Providing Emergency Storm Service in Minnesota, and Companies with Certified Arborists in Minnesota are available through the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture.
For a list of University of Minnesota Extension Service publications on tree selection and care, contact the Extension Office, Forest Resources Department, 116 Green Hall, 1530 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108, 612-624-3020.
Funding for Storm Damage to Landscape Trees was provided by:
University of Minnesota Extension Service [the Renewable Resources Extension (RREA) program of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture--Cooperative States Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES)].
College of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota.
The authors thank the following individuals for their technical assistance and review of the publication:
Katie Himanga, consulting urban forester, Heartwood Forestry.
Patrick Weicherding, extension horticulturist, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Anoka County.