Winter Storm Damage

2014-11-15 10.12.15

With winter coming on strong now, there is the possibility of getting snow any time. We need to know what to do with our landscapes in the event of a large snowstorm.

When heavy snow comes through, it can cause our trees and shrubs to bend down out of their normal form. Many people want to knock the snow off of the trees because they think it is better to get it off of the plant, however it is really better to leave it alone. The snow and ice will eventually melt off of the plants and they will spring back up to their normal form after a while. You can lightly brush snow off of the tree with a broom, if desired.

If the tree becomes covered with ice, this can be more harmful to the plant. If you try to break ice off of a tree or shrub, it can break the branches or crack them, leaving them vulnerable to other problems. Again, the ice will eventually melt off of the tree or shrub and it will be fine.

snow damaged tree-andy rubacky flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Andy Rubacky per CC license

If, at some time during the winter, too much snow or ice comes in and breaks the branches of your tree, care can be done to help with that. The best management practice for helping a tree that has broken branches due to snow and ice would be to go out and trim those branches to make them a clean cut rather than a jagged cut. It is the same thing you would do if they get broken in a storm in the summer. Neither time is the best time to prune a tree or shrub, but it is better to clean up the cut when it happens. Prune out those broken branches to make a “good pruning cut”.

If the tree gets damaged too badly, it may be time to call for additional help from a trained professional. If the damage is high up in the tree or on large branches, you may want to hire a Certified Arborist or licensed tree-pruning company. Also, there may be a time when the damage is too bad, and you may have to think about replacement trees. According to Oregon State University Extension service, the things to think about on whether or not to remove a tree include,

  • How healthy was the tree prior to damage?
  • Are the major limbs broken?
  • Has the tree lost its leader or main upward growing branch?
  • Did the tree lose more than 50 percent of its crown or branches and leaves?
  • How big are the wounds?
  • Are there remaining branches that can form new structure?
  • Is the tree in the most suitable location?

These questions can help lead you to your answer on replacing the tree or not. If it seems the tree already had damage or growing problems, it lost too much of its canopy or very large branches, or it isn’t growing in the best location, then maybe it’s time to move on to a different tree.

Hopefully, we don’t have too many large snowstorms this year that we don’t have to deal with this. I just wanted you all to be prepared for this if it does happen. That way you will know what to do for your tree and what are the best steps to ensure that your trees and shrubs live through yet another tough Nebraska winter.


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