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EXTENSION CONNECTION: Learn how to save storm-damaged trees

Larry Williams

Questions concerning storm damaged landscapes continue. This article includes information that should be helpful.

Partially uprooted small trees and shrubs should be securely staked in their original positions. Until plants are reset, protect exposed roots and prevent drying. Soil, moist burlap sacks or moist sphagnum moss can be put on exposed roots. Remove damaged roots so the tree can be reset at ground level.

This tree has been tied to stakes for support.

Once reset, trees should be secured. Two or three 4-foot long, 2x2 inch wood stakes can usually anchor trees with trunk diameters less than two inches. Stakes should be placed about a foot outside root ball and inserted eighteen inches into soil. Secure stakes to trunk with ties made from wide, smooth material or hose-covered wire.

Trees two inches or larger in diameter should be guyed with three or four wires or cables. Guy wires are secured to deeply driven short stakes evenly spaced outside the root ball. Guy wires should be run through rubber hose and secured to trunk at only one level. Mark support wires with bright materials to prevent accidents.

Guy wires should be adjusted several times during growing season to minimize trunk injury. Support stakes and wires should stay in place for one year.

Soil should be filled around root area once tree is staked into position. Firm around roots to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Excess soil over the normal root area can be damaging. Only replace soil that has been washed or worked away from roots.

In cases where all branches were destroyed, remove the tree, especially trees such as pine that do not normally regain their natural form. You may be able to keep other trees such as oaks, where strong bottom limbs still exist. However, emerging sprouts from ends of large, cut limbs will be poorly secured to the tree and are likely to fall from the tree during a storm. In addition, decay organisms usually enter these large wounds. Trees and shrubs that lost their leaves from high winds can usually be saved and should resume growth.

Any tree work, including tree removal should be done by a professional arborist, preferably a certified arborist. To find a certified arborist in your area contact the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) at 217-355-9411 or at www.isa-arbor.com. You also may contact the Florida Chapter of ISA at 941-342-0153 or at www.floridaisa.org.

Reset plants should be watered twice a week and fertilizer should not be applied. Until re-established, fertilizer will be of no benefit and may injure new roots.

For additional information, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/disaster-prep-and-recovery or contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.

Larry Williams

Larry Williams is a UF/IFAS Extension Agent in Okaloosa County.