QUESTION: "Last week, during a storm, a 40-ft. limb was ripped down
from an 80-ft tree, leaving a hole about 5-ft. diameter. Should I seal
this somehow?" RaDonna
ANSWER: It sounds as though your tree has experienced some pretty
significant damage and an older tree will have a difficult time of
repairing itself. At this time you may want to have an expert in your
area look at the tree to see if there is a chance it will be healthy
enough to do this. Check with your local agricultural extension agent,
your local conservation district office (also known as NRCS) or an
Quite often, younger trees can get by on a broken limb and, without
any sealing, make it through and remain healthy. Older trees are
different in that respect and a 5 foot hole is quite large.
Do try to contact one of the people that I suggested and I hope your
tree makes a good recovery.
RaDonna's question reminded me that a lot of people all over the
country have experienced weather-related damage to trees and shrubs
recently. This prompted me to do some online research to find
information that readers with storm-damaged trees would find useful.
First up: an article, by Consumer Horticulturist Erv Evans, at a Web
site hosted by North Carolina State University.
"Treatment of storm-damaged trees requires wise decisions and prompt
action if the maximum benefit from repair work is to be achieved,"
says Evans. "Repairs come in two stages: first aid for immediate
attention; and follow-up work to be distributed over a period of
months to several years. Care for damaged large trees is best left to
All the experts agree that the first thing to do is decide if the tree
is actually worth saving. Is there a sentimental or historical value
to the tree? Does it serve a particular function that makes
extraordinary action worthwhile?
Evans makes the point that if more than 30 to 50 percent of the main
branches or trunk are severely split, broken, or mutilated, the
benefit of extensive repairs is questionable.
If a damaged tree does need to be removed, it's probably a job for
experts, particularly if it's a large, older tree or has precariously
hanging, damaged limbs. Removing a tree that's close to overhead power
lines or with roots possibly near underground utilities is always a
job for the professionals!
To read the entire article, go to
or go to my Web site, www.landsteward.org and click on a direct link
from this column.
"Repairing Storm Damaged Trees," is a very practical "how to" article
by Melvin R. Koelling and Russell P. Kidd of the Michigan State
University Forestry Department.
Before you start cutting, they say, assess the damage to decide which
branches should be removed and where to cut. There are several good
diagrams with the article that show you where - and where NOT - to
Koelling and Kidd state that branches smaller than 3-inch diameter can
best be removed using a pruning shears or a pole-pruner. A sharp,
properly aligned shears or pruner will make a clean cut, not crush or
tear bark tissue and reduce clean-up time.
Use a sharp saw to remove larger branches. If a power saw is used, a
safety rope and harness are essential, they say. Be particularly
careful when footing is unsure. At all times, use common sense and
follow all recommended safety precautions when working with equipment
in and around trees.
Again, my personal advice is to leave anything more than minor
trimming to the experts to avoid the possibility of serious injury.
You can find the entire article at http://www.kbs.msu.edu/extension/storm /
which is a "must read" if you are unsure what to do about a tree that
has taken a hit from a recent storm.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org