Bennett Joffrion | 6/9/2005 9:27:17 PM
The first impulse of the homeowner after a major storm is to hurry up and clean up the mess. Making hasty decisions may result in removing trees that could have been saved, according to LSU AgCenter agriculture and natural resources expert Barton Joffrion.
The extension service agent from Terrebonne Parish recommends following a few simple rules for tree care after a storm.
Don’t try to do it all yourself. Joffrion says if large limbs are broken or hanging, or if high climbing or overhead chainsaw work is needed, let a professional arborist do it.
Take safety precautions. Look up and down the tree, Joffrion says, cautioning to be alert for downed power lines and hanging branches. He says to stay away from any downed utility lines. Low-voltage telephone or cable lines and even fence wires can become electrically charged when there are fallen or broken electrical lines nearby.
Remove any broken branches still attached to the tree. Removing the jagged remains of broken limbs is the most common repair that property owners can make after a storm. If done properly, it will minimize the risk of decay entering the wound, Joffrion says. Prune smaller branches at the point where they join larger ones. Cut larger broken branches to the trunk or a main limb.
Repair torn bark. To improve the tree’s appearance and eliminate hiding places for insects, carefully use a chisel or sharp knife to smooth the ragged edges of wounds where the bark has been torn away. Joffrion cautions not to expose any more of the cambrium, the greenish inner bark, than is necessary. The cambrium layer delivers food and water from the roots to the leaves.
Resist the urge to overprune. Don’t worry if the tree’s appearance isn’t perfect. With branches gone, your trees may look unbalanced or naked. Joffrion says you’ll be surprised at how fast trees heal and grow new foliage, returning to their natural beauty.
Don’t top your trees. So-called tree experts may urge you to cut back all of the branches to stubs, on the mistaken assumption that reducing branch length will help avoid future breakage. This practice of "topping" is one of the worst things you can do to a tree, according to Joffrion. What will grow back on the stubs are numerous weakly attached branches that are even more likely to break in a storm. Worse yet, topped trees are more likely to die than repair themselves. At best, their recovery will be retarded and not likely regain their original shape or beauty.
For additional information about tree care and hurricane preparedness, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office and check out the links at the LSU AgCenter home page, www.lsuagcenter.com.
On the Web: Look for on-line disaster publications "Living with Hurricanes and "There’s a Hurricane Forming" in the publications section of the LSU AgCenter’s Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Source: Barton Joffrion (985) 873-6495, or Bjoffrion@agcenter.lsu.edu