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Opinion >  Column

Gardening: With proper care, trees damaged by heavy snow will recover

By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

The only silver lining out of last weekend’s epic snowfall is that by the time you’re reading this we will be back to more normal temperatures. The catch is we don’t know for how long. Everything this year is crazy, so why not the weather, too?

I managed to save most of my important trees from damage by making two trips out in the yard to knock snow off branches. We did lose a couple of branches on my favorite summer shade tree and a couple of trees along the driveway. The driveway trees were easy to get out of the way so we could get out to the road, but the final cleanup will mean a dump run.

Trees are amazing biological entities. With proper care, they can heal themselves from the ravages of broken limbs and tops. If you lost branches that are easy to reach, remove the branch by first cutting just behind the break with a handsaw. If the remaining branch stub is near the trunk, cut the stub off just in front of the raised bark ridge where the branch attaches to the tree.

Don’t put tree heal, paint or any other cover over the wound. The tree will take care of the cut by internally walling off the damage from the rest of the tree and growing new tissue into the wound area. It will take time, though.

If the branches tore away from the tree leaving long strips of torn bark and wood, trim up the edges with sharp pruners and let the healing process take over. If the top of a small tree broke, clean up the wound and then watch for a new branch near the original top to emerge. This can become the new leader for the tree.

If any of your tree repairs require more than a hand pruning saw and standing on the ground, its best to call an arborist who is trained to evaluate the tree and has the equipment to do the job efficiently and effectively.

Arborists will be busy for a few weeks so be patient. What ever you do, don’t get up on a ladder with a chain saw; that is a quick way to an accident, and I have the scars to prove it.

With the amount of snow we got, most everything else should be all right. The snow acted as an insulation blanket to the plants that had barely started going dormant.

We will, however, lose whatever fall color that was emerging. The color was slow this year because of the warm weather and no early frost. The leaves will look curled and be crispy. While the separation process has been interrupted, the winter winds will eventually take the leaves off over the next couple of months.

That might short-circuit your plans to use the leaves as mulch, but they will be there to rake up when we get breaks in the winter weather and you can’t stand to be in the house any longer.

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