Replace weather-damaged trees with stronger ones

By for CAES News

Thunderstorms with heavy winds blew across Georgia April 5, leaving homes without power and landscapes littered with downed trees and limbs.

Strong weather is common in Georgia this time of year, and so is cleaning up after it. But there’s a way to do it safely and wisely, said David Dickens, associate professor of forest productivity with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Stey by step

“Prioritize your chores by starting to work on trees that endanger buildings and fences first with proper care, safety equipment and knowledge,” he said. “If you are hesitant or think you may be hurt removing downed trees, then contact a reputable tree surgeon."

Don’t attempt to handle trees that overhang or touch power lines, he said. Call local utility company professionals for assistance.

“Many people were injured and a few were killed while trying to clean up debris after Hurricane Hugo,” Dickens said. “Ideally, it’s best to hire a reputable professional.”

Tree loss

Uprooted trees will likely die.

“Large trees that have been uprooted have little chance of surviving because the broken roots that used to structurally support the top weight and nourishment of the tree are damaged,” he said.

Tackle unsightly, damaged trees next. For example, Bradford pear trees are prone to split. “This type of injury is difficult to reshape and the lopsided weight can cause the tree to blow over with soft wet ground and a gusty wind,” he said. He recommends removing severely misshapen trees and replanting a tree with better structure.

Remove and replace

“You may have to crank up the chainsaw for the removal of an old favorite tree, but take this opportunity to consider carefully the next tree and select one that has a stronger design,” he said. “Red and sugar maples, as well as most varieties of oak trees, are sturdier tree variety selections.”

Broken limbs that are still attached to tree crowns should be properly trimmed. Leave a pruning cut that is flush to the next larger limb or main trunk. There is no need to apply wound tar to the prune cut.

“It has been shown through research that wound treatments like this can actually slow down the healing process of the tree,” he said.

Brace or remove

Small trees that are bent over and have not straightened back up can be propped and then braced or cabled.

“A spindly pine tree that is bent over to the ground most likely will not stand straight again,” he said. “If the damage is severe, and over one third of the bark is lost, this is damage few trees can survive.”

For tips on using a chainsaw safely, see the UGA Extension publication at .

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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