Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Save Damaged Trees from Brink of Disaster

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Save Damaged Trees from Brink of Disaster

Article excerpt

Floyd, Gert and Harvey are like house guests who have long overstayed their welcome.

People weary from the hurricane evacuation are now turning their attention to damage control in their soggy, ravaged yards.

After the hurricane, master gardeners often answer questions are about what can be done to save damaged trees. The Disaster Handbook, developed by the University of Florida as a result of Hurricane Andrew, addresses some of these questions. Here are some tips from the guidebook.

The type of care you give damaged trees should depend on their age and the extent and type of damage. A tree's age will largely determine its ability to recover. A young, vigorous tree will be more likely to survive than an older one.

Many trees were blown over with the roots attached. It is too late to save these trees because the roots have not been protected. If a tree is completely or partially uprooted, and you intend to reset the tree, exposed roots should be covered with sand, soil or burlap as soon as possible. It is best to reset only small trees. Large trees will be weak and might fall again.

Many storm-damaged trees have roots that severed as the tree shifted. Before you reset the tree, make a clean cut on all jagged and irregular root breaks. Heavy equipment like a tractor or wrecker using large ropes will be needed to pull the tree back into place. When reset, these trees will require at least three guy wires to hold the tree in place. Do not remove guy wires or braces for at least two years. After resetting, water the tree well to remove air pockets, water daily for several months and gradually reduce watering intervals. Prune the damaged tree to remove broken, diseased and malformed branches.

Despite the fact that many trees remained upright after Floyd, they might have been tossed back and forth creating a hollowing of the soil around the major support roots. Check the soil around remaining trees for raised areas or lumps. If you find this type of damage, roots were damaged on that side of the tree, and the tree should be pulled to an upright position. This -- again -- will require heavy equipment unless the tree is small. Water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets. Staking will be necessary to provide anchorage because of the damaged root system.

Other trees suffered broken limbs or split trunks. Ripped trunks or limbs that extend into the main trunk will compromise the integrity of the tree. Broken and torn limbs should be repaired as soon as possible. Cut off broken or torn limbs to avoid more bark stripping.

To remove a large, heavy limb, use three cuts to avoid ripping bark and wood. Make a cut on the underside of the limb, about 1 foot from the trunk or branch. Cut only about a third of the way through the limb. Make a second cut on the upper side of the limb, about 2 to 6 inches farther out on the limb than the first cut. …

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