Expert advice for dealing with damaged trees

The devastation from January’s ice storm exceeded that of the 1996 ice and snow event. Deciduous trees were impacted much more, although most conifer species fared somewhat better than 18 years ago.

Editor’s note: Throughout the region, people are still cleaning up after the ice storm of two weeks ago. Here, an expert offers advice for dealing with the countless trees that suffered damage.

By Dennis Tompkins

For The Courier-Herald

The devastation from January’s ice storm exceeded that of the 1996 ice and snow event.

Deciduous trees were impacted much more, although most conifer species fared somewhat better than 18 years ago.

During the cleanup, homeowners are faced with a number of questions of how to treat damaged landscape trees. The following tips will help when deciding whether to remove or attempt to salvage valuable trees.

1. Be safe. Many broken branches are difficult to reach even with a ladder. Use good judgment before deciding to risk your life or to call a tree service that has staff properly trained and equipped.

2. Be patient. If properly trimmed, many ornamental trees can be renovated, but it will take a few years – not months. It may be prudent to hire a professional to perform careful pruning. He or she will be diligent in looking for buds and twigs that will begin to fill in voids with future growth. Tree crowns that are out of balance because of the loss of branches can be gently trimmed to begin to reshape the canopies.

3. Cut a damaged branch below a break and where a split or crack may be present. In some instances, removal of the entire branch may be wise.

4. Many of the ends of cut-off branches will begin to develop water sprouts next spring. Species like flowering plums are prolific sprouters. Many should be removed while others can be selected to help fill in voids. Such sprout management should be exercised for a few years. Realistically, few homeowners will do so and decisions to remove unsightly trees may eventually be necessary.

5. A hazard assessment may be prudent where damage has occurred to a large tree. An arborist can determine whether a tree can be safely left or whether the risks are too great to attempt to salvage a prized tree.

6. Again, be patient when attempting to reach a tree service or certified arborist. Their phones have been ringing off the hook for days and they are doing their best to schedule consultations, debris cleanup and renovation pruning. Remember, the trees are not going to go away.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, certified hazard tree risk assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small tree pruning, renovation pruning of damaged trees, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253-863-7469 or e-mail at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.

 

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