Macon State College has planted hundreds of trees since the Mother’s Day tornado of 2008 toppled, broke and damaged the majority of the trees on campus.
But this week, it’s working with a tree service to give the remaining damaged trees a fighting chance to survive and thrive.
Workers from Bartlett Tree Experts in Tucker spent hours Wednesday using air guns to aerate the soil underneath oak trees planted in the late 1960s.
After losing much of their canopy to the tornado, the trees have lost the ability to feed themselves, said Tyler Baxter, an arborist and Bartlett employee.
Baxter said aerating the roots and replacing mulch with manure will give the trees a better growing environment.
“We’re making potting soil,” he said. “We can’t make this tree grow roots, but we can give it a better opportunity.”
Workers also will be installing metal braces and cables to provide support for damaged limbs, Baxter said.
“In the event of another storm, maybe it won’t break off,” he said.
Smaller trees will be pruned to aid in the tree’s growth.
The work is being funded by a $20,000 grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Urban & Community Forestry Grant program, according to a news release.
Under the grant’s terms, the Macon State College Foundation is providing matching funds.
Derrick Catlett, a groundskeeper at the college, said the campus lost an estimated 95 percent of its tree canopy, including about 3,900 trees to the tornado.
Catlett said workers have given priority to many of the oldest trees on campus, many planted when the college was first established.
Employees planted 425 new trees, mostly oaks, last year. An additional 136 trees will be planted by the first of the year, he said.
Workers will be holding a public demonstration of their work at 1:30 p.m. today as they aerate the soil beneath a 150-year-old live oak and install cables and braces on its limbs.
Catlett said the braces aren’t expected to destroy the beauty of one of the largest shade trees on campus.
“They say you won’t see them unless you’re looking for them,” he said.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.