Blizzard's silver lining: Firewood and landscape renewal
For Arkansans looking at their blizzard-broken landscapes, there is a little bit of a silver lining.
First is the opportunity for landscape renewal, said Tamara Walkingstick, Ph.D., an associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"It can be heartbreaking to look out onto your property and see the tops broken out of your trees or your crepe myrtles completely bent to the ground," she said. "While you may lose a tree or two because of severe damage, there are some ways you can improve and bring back trees and other plants."
Second is the potential for firewood. Walkingstick said property owners cutting up trees or branches with an eye for fireplace or barbecue grill fuel, should be sure to know which type of wood is safely usable for either situation. The wood should also be dried, which can take up to seven months.
"Don't try to burn green limbs. It can be done, but the results will be very smoky," she said. "If there's room, pile the green branches and let birds use it as cover, or mulch it."
"If you burn pine logs in a fireplace, the tree resin will stick to the walls of the chimney and cause a fire hazard," Walkingstick said. "You also don't want to use pine in grilling because of the flavor it will impart to your food. Stick to oak, pecan and hickory for use in cookery."
As with any logs burned, be sure they are free from poison ivy vines, which when burned vaporizes the poison ivy oil and delivering it straight to eyes, throat and lungs.
Once you have the fallen limbs and detritus cleaned from the area, consider what can be pruned and what can be removed altogether. In some cases, plants that may seem to be complete losses now, may become comeback kids.
"Crape myrtles, immature oaks and some other trees can be cut to the ground. In the spring, they will sprout new growth, and you can choose the heartiest one to replace the original," Walkingstick said. "Depending on the tree and the amount of damage it has sustained, some may be able to be saved."
Finally, consider hiring someone to assess what can and can't be salvaged. "A skilled arborist or urban forester will be able to determine what on your property can be saved and what should be removed," Walkingstick said.
"Be very careful in working with an individual or company who recommends cutting down and removing everything. You can get recommendations on qualified providers from the Cooperative Extension Service, the Arkansas Forestry Commission or the Arkansas Foresters Association."
For more information about forestry, visit www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent.