Published on 01/27/00

Storm-toppled Trees Not a Total Loss

Ice storms like the one north Georgia witnessed this weekend can leave trees bent, broken and toppled. But that doesn't always mean they're lost, says a University of Georgia expert.

"Uprooted trees comprise a major problem in ice storms," said Gary Wade, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"If the tree is small enough to lift back in place, do so before the root ball dries out," Wade said. You may need to get the help of several friends or a winch.

Raise, Then Anchor Tree

Trim broken roots and excavate the hole under the root ball before you begin tugging. As the tree becomes vertical the root ball needs to settle back into its former home without obstacles.

"Then use strong rope or wire tied to sturdy stakes to hold the tree in place," he said, "until the roots get anchored again." If you use wire, pad it thickly where it touches the trunk.

"The old trick of using a short piece of water hose to pad the wire is better than nothing," said UGA horticulture educator Walter Reeves. "But wide nylon strapping is much less likely to harm the trunk."

Water as if Newly Planted

Reeves said the roots under the root ball, although you can't see them, may have snapped when they were bent at such an acute angle.

"Since the roots on one side were snapped completely and those on the other side might have been bent," he said, "plan to water your uprighted tree as if it were newly planted. Pay special attention to its needs in July and August."

If the tree is too large to upright, cut it up and use it for firewood.

First Aid for Trees

"If the tree is an evergreen, such as magnolia or holly, it may wilt due to root loss," Wade said. "Wait several days to see if wilting occurs. If so, prune back the canopy by one third to compensate for the loss of roots."

If your trees suffered broken branches, they need first aid fast.

"Clean up wounds on trees and shrubs left from broken branches by making a smooth cut back to the main trunk or main branch," Wade said. "It's not necessary to use a pruning paint on the wounds."

Ice, he said, should do little damage to leaves.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.