The recent record setting snowfall many of us experienced this October wreaked havoc on trees and shrubs, not to mention power lines and poles throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England.
The damage to deciduous trees was especially devastating because this wet, heavy snow came well before the beautiful fall foliage had dropped from the trees.
Generally, snow doesn't cause significant damage to deciduous trees because it typically comes when the trees are leafless and most of the snow falls through the branches to the ground below. This particular snow sat heavily on the leaf-covered trees, bending and snapping branches and toppling whole trees in some cases. The devastation was mind boggling – like a war zone some said!
This type of damage to trees and shrubs can also be caused by heavy wind, ice storms, and even heavy rain so the tips presented here can be helpful in these situations, too.
The most important thing is to be safe!
The first thing you need to do is evaluate the damage to your tree. Study the tree from all angles and determine the best way to proceed. Severe damage may warrent a call to a professional tree service like Bartlett Tree Experts, while more minor damage can often be tackled by the homeowner.
Broken branches are one of the most common types of storm damage to trees, whether by wind, snow, or heavy rain. The three D's of pruning dictates that you can remove these broken branches at any time regardless of when they occur. This is mainly because the ragged wound left from the break can be a entrance point for insects and disease.
Remember, hire a professional to remove very large branches or those that you can't safely reach from the ground. Ladders can be very dangerous for pruning!
If a branch has broken off the tree and peeled the bark down on the trunk in the process, remove the branch using the procedure above and then trim off any loose bark.
Ways to deal with split branches or trunks.
In many cases, depending on the species of tree, younger trees can bounce back from fairly severe damage - up to 40% loss of their branches. These smaller trees should be pruned to remove damaged branches, making new clean cuts back to a branch collar. If just the tip of a branch is damaged, prune the branch back to an outward facing branch or bud.
In the late spring, you will be able to determine if the tree has survived. Summer pruning may be necessary to reshape the tree and remove additional dead twigs or branches.
In cases of severe damage to larger trees, it is best to consult a certified local arborist such as Bartlett Tree Experts to get their recommendation on whether the tree can be salvaged. If the loss of branches is greater than 40%, the chances of survival can be greatly diminished and you may have to have the tree removed. Even if it survives, it may be severely weakened and it may become a hazard in the future.
It's wise to consult a professional arborist to determine a course of action.
If you are forced to remove a tree, consider replacing it with a tree that produces well-spaced, wide angled branches which provide greater strength and resist breakage. To eliminate the problem of trunk splitting, look for trees that produce a single main trunk. Bradford pears are very popular landscape trees but they have weak branches and are very prone to storm damage.