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Knowing when to hire an arborist, how to treat storm-downed trees

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ST. PAUL - There are several treatments a homeowner may use to correct the minor damages that storms inflict, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Office.

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In a news release, the office said homeowners should consider hiring an arborist before attempting any corrective treatment to storm-damaged trees.

"Except for the cases of pruning small branches, and straightening slightly leaning, small trees, consult an arborist," said Gary Johnson, a forester with University of Minnesota Extension.

From the news release:

Possibly the most important question to address when evaluating storm damage is whether to hire an arborist to do the work or to attempt it yourself. "If you need a chainsaw or ladder to do the pruning, if there are any downed and potentially energized lines in the area of the tree, or if you are wondering if the tree is worth saving, you need an arborist," said Johnson.

In any situation where there is the potential for personal or property damage (broken limbs hanging high in the tree or unsupported branches hanging over sidewalks), it is very important to immediately call your city forestry department or a reputable tree care company to remove the potential danger.

Johnson provided a list of the most common types of corrective treatments.

Corrective Pruning:

Small branches that have been damaged extensively should be removed to the next branch, but never cut off the branch collar. Use the proper pruning techniques to safely remove broken branches. If a branch is too heavy to support with one hand, a three-cut method should be used.

Straightening, Staking and Guying:

For minor uprooting of smaller trees (less than 25 feet), straightening and/or guying is an option if correction takes place immediately after damage has occurred. When staking an uprooted tree, be sure that the roots remain covered and moist. Stakes should be placed evenly around the tree and attached securely without pulling on the tree. Thin rope or wire should not be used against the trunk of the tree.

Wound Repair:

Torn bark may be removed to reduce entry sites for diseases and insects, or for aesthetic purposes. Split, cracked and torn branches should be removed to points of no damage. Bark should not be removed from areas greater than the damage already present. When pruning branches or repairing wounds, it is usually unnecessary to paint the wounds. The exception is during oak wilt season (April, May, June). During this period, wounds made on oaks should be painted immediately with a latex paint or shellac to deter insects carrying the oak wilt disease fungus.

Cabling and Bracing:

Cabling and bracing are frequently applied treatments following storm damage, but only trained professionals should perform these installations. Most tree care companies will provide this service. Cabling and bracing are most effective as preventative measures, and provide extra support for weakly attached branches or stems.

The directories Tree Care Companies Providing Emergency Storm Service in Minnesota, and Companies with Certified Arborists in Minnesota are available through the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture.

More information about the prevention and treatment of storm-damaged trees is available at www.extension.umn.edu/go/1110. For more information from Extension on recovering from storms and other weather events, visit www.extension.umn.edu/extreme-weather.

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