Post-Snow Storm Tree Casualties: What to Do

In the aftermath of Snowpocalypse 2019, chances are you lost a few trees and shrubs along with your power. It’s tough when part or all of a favorite tree comes down or an ornamental is destroyed. After all, they’re often viewed as part of the family when you’ve looked at and admired them outside your window for years.

As we dig out and clean up the wreckage from downed trees and limbs during the coming weeks, be careful and keep in mind these few tips.

When is Half Dead Not Half Bad?

Dead or damaged trees aren’t always a bad thing. Many birds and mammals depend on trees with rotten wood and loose bark for foraging, nesting, and roosting. Large, partially decayed trees and logs are especially valuable, eventually providing hollowed out homes for critters. If a damaged tree is well away from any structures, consider allowing it to decay naturally. It’s less work for you and provides more niches for wildlife on your property!

If we’re talking about trees you want to keep healthy as long as possible, here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with the damage.

Tree First Aid
1. Know your limits and don’t try to do it all yourself! If large limbs are broken or hanging, or if high climbing or overhead chainsaw work is needed, it’s a job for a professional arborist. We have lots of good ones on the Island – search under “Tree Service.”
2. Take proper safety precautions. Look up and down and all around your damaged tree. Don’t get under any broken limbs that are hanging or caught in other branches. Hopefully, power lines are no longer an issue for you.
3. Remove any broken branches still attached to the tree. Removing jagged remains of smaller sized broken limbs will minimize the risk of decay agents entering the wound. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones. Large branches that are broken should be cut back to the trunk or a main limb by an arborist.
4. Repair torn bark. To improve the tree’s appearance and eliminate hiding places for insects carefully use a chisel or sharp knife to smooth the ragged edges of wounds where bark has been torn away.
5. Resist the urge to over-prune. Your tree may not look perfect, but you’ll be surprised at how fast it will heal, grow new foliage, and return to its natural beauty.
6. Don’t top your trees! Topping a damaged tree (i.e. cutting main branches back to stubs) will reduce the amount of foliage on which the tree depends for food and nourishment needed for regrowth. A tree will need all of its resources to recover from the stress of storm damage.

Eco-friendly Disposal Options
1. Chip it and turn it into mulch! The greenest way to dispose of downed limbs and trees is to chip it up. Much of its carbon remains trapped in the wood where it can be returned to the soil. Bainbridge Rental has two tow-behind chippers that rent for $185/day. Gather a few neighbors and have a chipping party!
2. Let it become an animal playground. Brush piles of limbs and branches make for great bird and critter habitat. Just be sure to position these piles away from your house so as to have a proper wildfire perimeter.