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Janet Laminack: Proper care can help trees rebound from rough weather

We have had quite the exciting weather lately. The rain, high winds and tornadoes have taken a toll on our plant life.

Let’s start with broken branches in trees. Just because a tree has suffered storm damage does not necessarily mean it’s a goner. Trees can experience a lot of defoliation or leaf loss and recover. However, you should remove broken branches and limbs. Trimming and pruning trees takes some skill and may be dangerous, so consider hiring a professional to help you.

If you do decide to do it yourself, here are some pointers. Smaller limbs can be trimmed back to where there is no damage or to a larger branch. Larger branches may need to be removed completely, being trimmed back to the trunk.

When removing larger branches, the weight of the limb itself can strip the bark when being cut. We recommend using the three-cut method.

The first step is to make a partial cut from beneath, at a point several inches away from the trunk. Next, make a second cut from above, several inches out from the first cut, which will remove the branch. This double-cut method prevents the weight of the branch from tearing the bark. And finally, complete the job with a final cut just outside the branch collar — the raised area that surrounds the branch where it joins the trunk. When pruning, you always want to leave a branch collar instead of a flush cut.

Don’t overdo your tree trimming. Trees should never be topped. You may hear that you need to reduce the length or weight of branches to prevent future storm damage, but topping destroys the structure of the tree and makes it weaker and more vulnerable. After pruning out the broken branches, your tree may look unbalanced or strange, but give it a little time to recover before doing any more pruning. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to remove more than one-third of a tree at a time. Of course, if more than one-third has been damaged, you have no choice.

The Texas Forest Service has excellent information on pruning trees with illustrations. They also have information to help you determine if your tree can be saved or not available at texasforestservice.tamu.edu/Canmytreebesaved. Additionally, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has information on tree damage and prevention available at essmextension.tamu.edu/treecarekit.

Another issue we are dealing with is flooding and water-soaked soils. This site, texashelp.tamu.edu/004-natural/floods.php, has information for those of you who have flood damage in your homes or have livestock. However, it also has information that might be helpful to the rest of us about how to deal with problems with fire ants, mosquitoes and snakes after flooding.

We also may see damage to trees, lawns and ornamentals because of the flooding and saturated soils. Plant roots need oxygen to survive, and flooding limits the aeration in the soil. Flowing water carries dissolved oxygen, so a few days of flowing water around trees might not cause an impact. However, standing or puddled water is very likely to cause stress to the trees, which makes them more susceptible to secondary problems such as insects or disease.

For more information on any of these topics, call 940-349-2892 or email master.gardener@dentoncounty.com.

Also don’t forget about the upcoming free workshop about the Hickory Creek watershed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. The Texas Water Resources Institute’s Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program will host a workshop for area residents interested in land and water stewardship in the Hickory Creek watershed. The free workshop is co-hosted by the city of Denton and the Upper Trinity Conservation Trust. To learn more about the workshop, visit texasriparian.org.

 

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.