Now that the major debris has been cleared from last week’s storm, it’s time for homeowners to assess the condition of their trees.
Trees have an amazing ability to recover from storm damage, says LSU AgCenter urban forester Hallie Dozier.
Often what at first glance looks devastating may not be fatal to a tree.
The first assessment should be to determine if any major limbs are broken.
The larger the broken limb, the harder it becomes for a tree to recover. If a majority of the main branches are gone, the tree may have little chance of surviving and will most likely be unhealthy, even if it does survive.
Homeowners can prune their own small trees, but for larger trees, Dozier recommends calling an arborist licensed to do tree care in Louisiana. Be sure to ask to see certificates of insurance and a copy of the license.
“Make sure you check credentials,” she says. “And beware of ‘door knockers’ or ‘storm chasers.’ Most qualified arborists have enough work and don’t need to solicit door-to-door.”
When it comes to decision making, if at least 50 percent of the tree’s branches and leaves are still intact, it’s a good chance the tree may survive. A tree with less than half of its branches remaining may not be able to produce enough foliage to nourish the tree.
A mature shade tree can usually survive the loss of one or two major limbs.
Broken branches should be pruned to the branch collar.
Young trees can sustain quite a bit of damage and still recover quickly. If the central leader is intact and the tree still has a manageable structure, remove the broken branches and let the tree recover.
If a valuable tree is a borderline case and isn’t an immediate threat to cause damage, don’t make a hasty decision. It may be best to wait and see how the tree responds. Prune broken branches, give the tree time to recover and then make a final decision.
Although a tree may look unbalanced or naked with branches gone, you’ll be surprised at how fast it can heal and grow new foliage.
Don’t over prune to balance the crown. Be conservative, Dozier says.
You can always remove more limbs later, but you can’t put them back.
You can find more information on pruning trees on the LSU AgCenter’s website at lsuagcenter.com. Type “pruning trees” in the search box.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.