Caring for damaged trees
By Ray Ridlen
Winter storms often bring damaging ice for shade and ornamental trees. In the event this happens, a homeowner's main concern should be to prevent any more injury while corrective measures are being taken.
The first action should be evaluating a tree's branching structure and deciding whether to correct and improve the damage conditions or, in cases where breakage is severe, to replace the tree.
If broken branches have caused rips into the trunk tissue, simply trim up any loose, broken ends around the wound. Do not do any cutting that will make the wound larger. If wood has splintered and is sticking out of the wound, chisel the splinters to make the ends as smooth as possible.
In the case of breakage at some point along the limb, trace the limb back from the stub to the parent branch or trunk. Where the limb joins the parent, most species of trees have a collar or swelling. The corrective cut should be made flush with the collar. Do not cut into the collar or into any trunk tissue. This will slow the healing process. For limbs that don't have a collar, leave a short stub--1/4 to 1/2 inch--coming from the trunk.
Follow-up care of damaged trees during the year's growing season is important. Proper fertilization, and insect and disease control will be needed. Open wounds invite tree borer infestations. A borer preventive pesticide should be applied according to recommendations early in the season.
No fertilizations should be applied to damaged ornamentals until March or early April. If the trees and shrubs are in a lawn that is fertilized regularly, the turf fertilizer probably will be sufficient and reach the intermingled root systems.
Trees growing in nutrient-deficient soil become more susceptible to damage by insects such as borers.
A leaf sample analysis is the best way to determine adequate fertilizer rates.