SHERIDAN — Last week’s storm left many residents without power, wrecked travel plans, caused events to be canceled, businesses to close and also heavily damaged hundreds of trees and shrubs. Though most of the power is back on and the snow is mostly gone, many homeowners are wondering how to handle their damaged trees and whether they will ever recover.
“My recommendation is anything that is broken go ahead and prune,” University of Wyoming Extension Educator Scott Hininger said. “We are far enough into the fall that it doesn’t really matter. It is still a bit early, we would like to wait until the tree is fully dormant to do much pruning, but when there is a disease or structure issue, you should go ahead and prune.”
Hininger said an important pruning technique is to prune a branch near to the trunk, rather than leaving a several-inch stump. He said the cut should be made just past the swollen, thick tissue between the trunk and the limb, known as the trunk or bark collar.
“You want to follow proper pruning techniques,” he explained. “You want to prune a branch back to a limb or a limb to the trunk. You don’t want to leave a stump. You want to prune to that bark collar. Some trees show it better than other trees, but that is the natural healing point of the tree. It you leave any kind of a stub, an inch or half-inch or a foot, it can’t heal itself. Over time the branches will rot back into the tree and you’ll get the rot in the center of the tree.”
“The other thing that we do not recommend is to paint or put any kind of a sealant on those cuts,” he continued. “In the trade, you still see that in a lot of catalogs, but the majority of university research across the nation says don’t put any kind of a sealant on, no paint, no tar.”
Hininger said that while damaged trees will likely benefit from fertilizing to help recover, homeowners should wait until next spring to apply fertilizer.
He also said that because many trees will be under stress due to the damage they received they are more susceptible to disease or insects. He recommended watching carefully next spring for signs of disease or insect infestation and even applying a preventative insecticide or fungicide.
Another concern for some trees is that their leader, or main branch, was broken by the heavy snow.
While this does not necessarily mean the death of the tree, it does mean that a homeowner or a tree service will need to cut the limb back.
“If that happens, what you want to do is cut back to the next branch that is at the top,” Hininger said. “Eventually that branch will become the central leader for the tree. A lot of time when the top breaks out of a tree they get really bushy. If the top comes out, you’ll see that secondary side growth pick up.”
Though most people have already started the process of removing branches and hauling them to the landfill, Hininger said that major pruning jobs can wait until the spring if necessary, especially pruning that requires cutting the lead branch, since they are often up high on the tree. He recommends for large jobs or jobs that require some choices on where to prune, that homeowners contact a tree service, even though tree service companies may be booked for some time.
“The good news is we don’t have to make a decision today on those kinds of things,” he said. “We can do proper pruning techniques now and through the winter. For the hard to get to stuff, we can call in the tree service companies in the spring.”
Hininger has posted information on pruning on the Extension’s website. To locate the information, click on the departments/office tab at www.sheridancounty.com. Find University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service in the left-hand column and then click on horticulture.