April 23, 2021


Home Improvement

LSU Garden News: How to deal with damaged trees after a storm | Home/Garden

Trees are very important features of our landscapes, providing shade in summer, allowing heat to radiate into the house in winter, adding aesthetic beauty and actually improving the value of our homes.

For those of us who really love trees, they are priceless.

However, when a storm blows through, the damage they leave behind can be devastating to homeowners and commercial industries.

Hurricane Laura took out 757,538 acres of timber, according to LSU AgCenter specialists.

In Louisiana, forestry and timber rank No. 1 in the top 10 agricultural commodities at $3.49 billion, so that kind of loss is enormous. 

For homeowners, once a storm has passed, you need to figure out what type of damage your tree has incurred. If major limbs or the tree’s central main branch is damaged or down, you’ve likely lost your tree. Such extensive damage makes it very difficult for the tree to recover. Large wounds will take a long time to heal.

In some cases, it is possible the tree will survive, but it will be definitely be stunted in addition to being a big target for pests and disease.

If the tree lost more than half of its branches, it’s going to have a tough time of recovery. With 50% of its leaves gone, it will have a difficult time producing the necessary energy for survival.

If the tree is valuable and not a major threat to surrounding structures, you may leave it alone, and it could possibly live a few more years or even recover with lots of care.

If you have a goner on your hands, it’s best to remove the tree.

If the work requires a ladder or the use of an overhead or one-handed chain saw, call a state-licensed arborist. You can find a list at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry website.

If you believe your tree can be saved, assess the damage in detail by removing broken limbs and pruning broken branches. Clean torn areas with a sharp, clean knife or ax, leaving as much bark as possible to help the wound-repair process.

Downed limbs can be cut into smaller pieces and used for firewood or taken to the curb.

If trees are uprooted or leaning, the chances of survival are best when one-third to one-half of the roots are still in the soil and the remaining exposed roots are relatively undisturbed. To reset them, remove a little soil from beneath the exposed root mass and set roots so they will be below the existing soil grade level.

Pull the tree upright and fill in soil as needed. Water the tree and gently step on the soil surrounding the trunk to help firm the soil and remove air pockets.

Next, attach three guy lines to the trunk at about two-thirds of the height of the tree. Anchor them with angled stakes placed 12-15 feet from the base of the tree and secure the lines. Anchor lines should be straps, cords or rope. If using cable, wrap it with cloth, rubber hose or some other soft material to prevent further damage to the bark. Stakes should be metal or hardwood.

Give the tree six or more months to recover, and remove the supports within one year. Don’t fertilize the first year after resetting. If you want to fertilize in a later season, greatly reduce your typical fertilizer application by more than a half for one year.

Irrigate as you would a newly planted tree to encourage new root growth. Irrigate deeply for the next one to two weeks after resetting, watering every other day or daily, depending on the temperature. Cooler temperatures require less irrigation. You can continue to water a couple times a week for the next three to six weeks. Finally, apply 2-4 inches of mulch to help reduce weeds, conserve moisture and insulate the roots from hot and cold temperatures.

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