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Damaged trees common with summer storms

Summer in the South means the ever-present threat of pop-up thunderstorms, which can leave damaged trees in their wake.
Summer in the South means the ever-present threat of pop-up thunderstorms, which can leave damaged trees in their wake. Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is summer in the South — hot, muggy, with the ever present threat of pop-up afternoon thunderstorms. These quick, drenching rains are a welcomed break from the otherwise dry conditions. Often, however, these summer storms can leave mild to moderate tree damage in their wake.

After the storm has passed and you have ensured the safety of yourself and your loved ones, contact your insurance company if damage is severe. It is possible your insurer has required contractors or procedures to meet the coverage requirements. Make sure to get a record of damage prior to work being done.

For minor damage, prune twisted, broken or otherwise damaged limbs back to the main lateral branch as soon as possible. By pruning back to the branch collar, open wounds, which invite insects and disease, are removed and healing can begin.

The three cut method of pruning is recommended to remove damaged limbs. First, make a partial cut underneath the damaged limb, only about 1/4 to 1/3 through the diameter. Make this initial cut 10 to 12 inches from the base of the branch you are cutting back to.

Second, make a cut on top of the limb several inches out (toward the tip of the branch), cutting all of the way through the damaged limb. The initial cut that you made will prevent the bark from tearing as the damaged branch falls.

Third, cut the remaining stub back to the slightly swollen tissue at the base of the limb called the bark collar. Just like having damaged limbs, leaving “stubs” can increase decay and insect activity. Topping trees to remove damage is not a recommended practice. This will cause a flush of new, weakened growth that could lead to further problems.

After pruning a storm-damaged tree, take steps to maintain its health. Mulch and water the tree’s root system to the edge of the canopy, if possible. Also, avoid applying fertilizers with high nitrogen levels (the first number on the bag of fertilizer: 46-0-0, for example) and monitor for subsequent insect and structural problems.

Following storms, contractors may approach homeowners to do mitigation work or removal of trees. Be sure to ask about their techniques, experience, insurance, local references and other pertinent information. Don’t be bullied into making a decision, and get several bids.

According to the Georgia Forestry Commission’s “Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Storm Damaged Trees,” ask for written estimates that include credentials, scope of work and costs. Once a company has been selected, ask for proof of insurance, require a written contract, and do not pay until the job is complete.

Good, reputable companies should have no problem with these requests. Tree removal is an expensive and hazardous task that can actually cause more damage if not handled properly.

For more information about handling storm-damaged trees, proper pruning techniques, selecting tree services and numerous other tree-related questions, visit the Georgia Forestry Commission’s website at gfc.state.ga.us.

Upcoming Events

Bring your landscaping and gardening questions to Bibb County Master Gardeners at the upcoming “Ask a Master Gardener” days:

▪ 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at Bird Watcher Supply, 5982 Zebulon Road

▪ 3:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Mulberry Market in Tattnall Square Park

Contact county Extension agent Karol Kelly at karolk@uga.edu.

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