Restoring Trees After Storm Damage

Trees are incredibly important and provide a wide range of benefits, such as improving air quality, providing a natural habitat for wildlife, and making urban environments healthier places to live. Unfortunately, storms can wreak havoc on landscaping and damage trees. How can you restore trees after storm damage and support their continued recovery? There are a variety of helpful steps to take after finding damaged trees.

Assess the Damage

Storms can cause a variety of damage to trees, including broken branches, uprooting, damaged bark, and more. Identifying the types of damage that a tree has can help you determine the best way to repair the tree. While you can take a look at the tree yourself, an arborist can provide a professional and more thorough assessment of the damage. When assessing storm damage, look for:

Uprooting: Check to see if tree roots are visible. If they are, rebury the exposed roots promptly to prevent them from drying out and to support the tree’s stability. If the tree is completely uprooted, you may not be able to save it. However, if the root system is mostly intact, repositioning the tree may help.

Leaning trunks: If the tree is leaning at an angle, it may have root damage.

Broken branches: Trees with broken branches may still be salvageable depending on the severity of the damage. If the limbs that are broken are relatively minor, you may be able to prune the tree to get it back to a more stable shape and to prevent further stress. If the broken limbs are large, it may be more difficult for the tree to bounce back. If the leader (main branch) has been lost, it may be difficult for the tree to grow normally.

The tree’s remaining limbs will grow faster than usual to fill in the tree’s appearance. If there are enough branches left to do this successfully, that’s a good sign. It’s also good if the tree has at least half of its crown. If less than half is intact, the tree may not survive.

Cracks and splits: Trees with deep cracks or splits in the trunk may need to be restabilized to prevent additional structural issues.

Splintered bark and exposed wood: Look for shredded or torn bark on the trunk or limbs of the tree, as well as exposed wood. Visible inner wood is a sign that the protective outer layer has been damaged.

Wounds: Trees can typically heal small wounds on their own. Larger wounds, which are more difficult to heal, can make the tree susceptible to insects and diseases.

It’s also important to examine the tree’s overall health. A tree is likely to recover if it’s generally healthy, does not have major structural damage, the main leader is intact, and you take action quickly.

Take Safety Precautions

Before fixing a damaged tree, make sure the area around the tree is safe. Check for downed power lines, unstable ground or trees, loose branches, and other hazards. Clear out debris and secure or remove loose branches so they don’t fall. If the tree is leaning or unstable, stabilize it before starting restoration work to ensure it doesn’t fall.

When working to recover and restore different species of tree, be sure to use the proper equipment. Protect yourself with gear like gloves, a hard hat, and eye protection to minimize your risk of injury, especially when climbing the tree or using a chainsaw. Use a sturdy ladder or an aerial lift with a harness when working at heights, such as when you’re pruning branches.

Remember that while you may be able to do some of the work yourself, it’s often helpful to hire professional arborists. They are trained in tree care and have the proper equipment for assessing and repairing damage. They know the proper protocols and can tackle the work while minimizing risk. Professional help is especially recommended when the damage is complex.

First Aid for Damaged Trees

When you notice that a tree is damaged, it’s important to act quickly to increase its chance of survival. After ensuring you have a safe area to work in, provide temporary support for the tree to prevent it from falling over or sustaining more damage. Stabilize leaning trees by placing stakes and guide wires. Use cables or straps to support branches with partial breaks. Be sure that the support methods aren’t too tight, as the tree needs room for slight movement to help it heal.

Next, prune damaged branches. Pruning helps the tree recover by allowing it to spend its energy on healthy branches rather unhealthy ones. It also protects against disease. Using sharp, clean pruning shears or a saw, make a clean cut just outside of the branch collar (the area where the branch and the trunk meet.) Try to avoid leaving jagged edges, which can make healing more difficult. If you see broken or splintered branches, trim them back until you reach healthy wood.

Then, it’s time to dress the wounds. Wound dressing is a product designed to prevent pests from bothering the tree and help protect the tree from diseases while it’s healing. Apply wound dressing in a thin layer to the exposed area without coating the healthy tissue.

Additional Tree Restoration Techniques

After performing tree first aid, you can use additional tree restoration techniques to help different species of tree grow back strong. Place organic mulch – such as shredded bark or wood chips – around the base of the tree without piling it against the trunk. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture and regulate temperature, as well as prevent weeds. After applying the mulch, be sure to water the tree’s root zone without over-watering.

After some time has passed since the storm or hurricane and the tree has had time to recover, consider adding fertilizer to it in the springtime. Fertilizer provides trees with important nutrients.

Monitor Tree Recovery

Helping your tree recover is an ongoing process. Regularly monitor the progress your tree is making and look for signs that it is recovering, such as new leaves, new branches, and other new growth. Improved stability and healthy foliage are also signs that the tree is recovering. Assess the overall health of the tree and determine if you need to make any changes to help the tree recover. If it’s taking a long time for the tree to recover, for example, you might need to do additional pruning or add more fertilizer. Be prepared to adapt the restoration plan based on the tree’s progress and needs.

Removal as a Last Resort

While tree removal should only be used as a last resort, it sometimes is necessary. If the tree has a weakened trunk or main leader, is leaning precariously, or otherwise poses an imminent risk to safety, it should be removed. A tree that is dead and does not have living limbs or foliage should also be removed. Trees with irreparable damage may need to be removed for safety reasons, and trees that are infested with pests or are sick with disease may need to be removed to prevent them from spreading such issues to other nearby trees. If a tree has broken your property, it may be necessary to cut and remove the tree before starting on repairs.

Environmental Impact of Restoration

Restoring trees that were injured in a storm has a positive impact on the environment. When different species of trees grow back, they can continue to provide a habitat for wildlife, which supports biodiversity in the community. Trees also improve local air quality by purifying the air and producing oxygen. By restoring trees, we can preserve urban green spaces and make our communities more sustainable.

How to Prepare for a Storm

Want to protect your trees from damage during the next storm? Regular tree inspections can help you identify issues so you can address them before they get worse. Pruning weak or dead branches and removing deadwood helps prevent them from becoming hazards during a storm with strong wind. Be sure the soil you use allows for proper aeration and fertilization to help the roots grow strong. Planting species of trees that are designed to thrive in your area’s climate and soil conditions can also help ensure your trees will stay put.

Why Hire an Arborist?

Although you can attempt to recover damaged trees on your own, hiring an arborist to do the job for you can be a wise investment, especially if the tree damage is significant. Arborists are trained in tree care and know how to properly assess and recover trees with storm damage. They’re also familiar with the needs of different tree species and can adjust their approach as needed. Certified arborists also have the expertise to recommend long-term strategies to help you care for your trees. In addition to knowledge, arborists have specialized equipment that makes it easier and safer to handle tree damage.

Need help restoring trees after a storm? Contact Joseph Tree to learn more and request a quote.