The aftermath of the wind storm leaves many homeowners living in the Diocese of Colorado Springs asking, “Can these trees be saved?” The wind left trees broken, torn, gouged, stripped and shredded. At first glance it may look hopeless but unless the tree has been completely uprooted: patience and proper care is critical.
Before writing off a damaged tree, there are some important points to consider. Trees are amazingly resilient and many recover with proper care and time. Despite our American urge to do something immediately, people should practice patience. As long as there isn’t immediate physical risk, a “wait and see” approach should be taken. If the tree was healthy before the wind damage and did not suffer major structural damage and is not creating a hazard it has a good chance for survival. Of course, any damaged tree should continue to be monitored for weakness.
Don’t rush to fertilize. Most damaged trees do not benefit from fertilizer or other nutrient applications. Allow the tree to recover on its own.
If larger, major limbs are broken it may be harder for the tree to thrive. When these limbs are broken or hanging and high chainsaw work is needed, it is best to hire or consult a professional arborist. Arborists have the necessary equipment and knowledge to save (or remove) the tree.
For safety’s sake, always look up high and down low. Watch high for dangerous hanging branches and look low for downed utility lines, low voltage telephone lines, cable lines, and fence wires. Avoid standing under branches that are hanging or caught in other branches.
If the leader (main upward branch) has been lost it may take away the desired appearance and deciding whether to keep it is a judgement call. Don’t top trees and don’t over prune. Topped trees tend to promote growth of weaker branches that are more likely to break during the next storm. As a rule, if 50 percent of the tree’s crown is still intact it has a good chance to persevere. A tree with less than half of its branches remaining may not be able to produce enough foliage to nourish the tree through another growing season.
It truly is amazing how fast wounds will close and the tree’s ability to compartmentalize the damage starts the healing process. Remember that a wound is vulnerable to disease and pests. If broken branches are pruned properly it will minimize the risk of decay entering the wound. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones. Large, broken branches should be cut back to the trunk or a main limb. Clean cuts in the right places will help the tree to recover faster and healthier.
To confirm a certification of a tree care provider consult the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA), www.ascaconsultants.org, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), www.isa-arbor.org, or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), www.treecareindustry.org. Don’t be pressured by people with chainsaws knocking at the door offering to remove or “repair” your trees for $100. It is probably too good to be true and you will end up spending much more in the long run.
When hiring a tree contractor, ask to see current certificates of insurance showing that they are fully insured for property damage, personal liability and workers compensation. If possible, get more than one estimate to ensure that the price is competitive with that offered by others for the same services. For tree removals, have it in writing about who removes the limbs and debris from the property, and whether the price includes stump removal and clean up.
During this windstorm — with all of its debris, blowing shingles, flying trampolines, overturned semis, shattered windows, and yes, many fallen trees — there wasn’t a single fatality reported. By the Grace of God, oh how sweet it is!
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)