Help for trees hurt by storms

This week's rain and winds broke off many tree branches. In addition, when heavy rains saturate the soil, sometimes the soil will no longer provide stability to roots, and a large tree will simply pull out of the ground and fall. Trees can also be partially uprooted or lose branches, leaving tears or wounds.

There is not much that can be done after a storm uproots a large tree because many of its important roots are seriously damaged in the process of its falling down. A small, young tree has a better chance of survival, providing root damage is minimal and the tree is immediately put back in the soil, mulched, and staked to hold the root ball stationary.

Most commonly, storms damage trees by tearing off limbs, which often damages the trunk or nearby branches as well. As soon as possible after a storm, remove a damaged branch just above the branch collar.

To avoid tearing heavy limbs, first make an undercut 8 to 10 inches from where the branch connects to the trunk. Cut a third to a half way into the branch.

Make the second cut 1 to 3 inches outside the first cut, starting on the top and cutting through the branch. Make the final cut just outside the branch collar. Proper pruning is the first step to tree recovery.

Cutting too close to the trunk leaves the tree unable to seal off the pruning wound, making it susceptible to disease. Do not cut behind the branch bark ridge. Do not paint wounds with sealer or paint; these interfere with the healing process. Do not leave stubs.

When bark has been ripped down from a limb tearing off, the bark sometimes can be reattached if it is put back in place immediately following the injury and secured with tree wrap, an old nylon stocking or an Ace bandage. If delay in reattaching the bark is unavoidable, neatly and cleanly cut away the damaged bark with a sharp knife or shears.

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For information on other gardening topics, call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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