If your trees have been damaged by severe weather, don’t be too quick to assume they need to be cut down. Even trees with significant damage can often be nursed back to health with proper pruning and care.
Storm Recovery Tips
Inexperienced arborists may recommend thinning interior branches after a storm, but this is essentially the exact opposite of what you should do in this situation. For storm protection and recovery, the best thing to do is to trim branches from the ends of long limbs, while leaving interior branches intact. Make smooth cuts when you prune your tree, and avoid leaving stumps or jagged pieces jutting out from the branches or trunk.
If a tree has significant damage to its branches after a storm, remove all broken, hanging and separated branches. Do not prune away any live wood. The energy stored in a tree’s limbs is essential to healing, and cutting off live branches only makes the road to recovery harder. Check for cracks in places where smaller branches connect to larger limbs. If cracks are found, cut the limb back to the next healthy branch.
Small trees—those with a trunk 4 inches in diameter or less—should be straightened and staked for support if they are damaged or knocked down. Water them regularly.
When Trees Can’t Be Saved
Storm damaged trees can usually be saved, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. If a tree leans over your house, car, walkway or any other place where people walk or play, it needs to come down. Trees that touch or hang over power lines should also be removed, but this isn’t a do-it-yourself task. If power lines are involved, always contact a professional.
You can check on your damaged trees a few months after a storm to see how they’re recovering. The easiest way to tell if a tree is still alive is to test the roots. Using a pitchfork, check the roots a few feet out from the trunk. Dying roots are soft, so if the pitchfork strikes solid wood, chances are good that your tree still has a fighting chance.