Clayton’s Corner

By | Published Thursday, January 14, 2010

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Although not real common for the area, an occasional ice or wind storm can move through Wise County leaving considerable damage in its wake. The most frequent damage is caused by freezing rain leaving an accumulation of ice on trees and shrubs. These ice storms can create havoc with landscape trees. Little can be done to prevent ice or wind storms. However, with careful pruning and good cultural practices many can be saved, and within a year or two the damage is hardly visible.

Carefully survey the damage and plan needed corrective pruning. Remove damaged limbs at the point of origin or just above a good side branch. Don’t allow stubs to remain unless absolutely necessary.

Sometimes, because of extremely severe damage, it may be necessary to stub back a branch or main trunk. Continual selective pruning and attention to detail are necessary at the end of the stub. Corrective pruning over a period of years will overcome this problem.

If the truck or main scaffold branch has split from excessive weight of the ice or high winds, it is usually best to remove the portion of the trunk that has broken away. Use cable and bolts to pull the damaged trunk together. Unless this is done by a professional arborist, results are seldom satisfactory and may do more harm than good.

If the bark has pulled loose along the side of a trunk because of a broken limb, smooth the torn area with a sharp knife or chisel. Do not use house paint or similar materials to cover the wounded area as the oils can damage growing tissue. In fact, recent research shows that wound dressing is not necessary but may actually hinder healing. A clean, smooth wound heals with no dressing. If wound dressing is used, be sure it is one especially prepared for this purpose.

On rare occasions a mild fall and early winter is disturbed by a fast moving Canadian cold front dropping temperatures well below freezing. Under these conditions plants aren’t completely dormant and severe cold injury occurs. The extent of injury depends on the duration of the cold temperature as well as the amount of wind accompanying the low temperatures.

Delay pruning damaged wood until late Feb. or early March. If buds are swelling and showing signs of growth, it is easier to distinguish the damaged tissue. Whether damaged by ice storm or cold temperature, fertilize affected trees and shrubs in late Feb. or early March to help promote new growth and healing of damaged tissue. Broadcast a high nitrogen-type fertilizer beneath the branch spread of the plant and 3 to 6 feet beyond. Apply at the rate of 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and water thoroughly.

It is essential to provide adequate moisture to damaged plants and prevent moisture stress. Use supplemental irrigation throughout the spring and summer.

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