By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
Compared to other parts of the state, we have been fortunate to receive a fair amount of rain lately. The rain has been very beneficial to our crops, gardens, and landscape, but as you know, there has been a downside. The rain has come with storms and many trees have suffered broken limbs. Taking care of these trees needs to be handled carefully.
Before you begin any work, safety is the number one priority. Be aware of your equipment. If you are using a power saw, have you read the owner’s manual and been trained on how to use the equipment? Are the safety features working properly and is the chain sharp? Is the blade sharp on a hand saw, or other equipment that you are using? Loppers can also be sharpened and should be kept sharp to make your work easier and make a cleaner cut. Quite often we are in a hurry which is when accidents most likely occur, so please make sure you take care of these things before you start.
Bent limbs and trunks can snap in different directions when they are cut, so make sure you are cutting in the right place. It may require an extra cut to remove some of the pressure, but that time can be well spent as opposed to the limb jumping back in place and sending the saw back against you.
When working on trees that have broken limbs, keep in mind that the limb needs to be removed close to the trunk. If it’s a big limb, it may require a three cut process to prevent the bark from splitting down the length of the trunk. The first cut should be on the underside of the limb a few inches from the trunk. This cut should only go a third of the way through the limb. Next, move a few inches out and cut through the entire limb. The cut from the bottom will prevent it from splitting the bark down the trunk of the tree. The third and final cut should be done next to the trunk at the swollen collar area. This will help the tree heal over the area from the removed limb.
For smaller limbs, cut them back to either the trunk or a side branch. If a portion of a limb is left sticking out, it will usually die back to the side branch and will serve as a pathway for insects and diseases to enter the tree, so make a clean, close cut next to the trunk.
After you have removed the broken and damaged limbs, try to balance the tree by removing limbs on the other side of the tree. This will help the tree continue to grow strong and will give it a better appearance. When removing limbs, remember that a limb is stronger with a 90 degree crotch angle. This refers to the angle that a limb grows out from the trunk. The 90 degree angle means that the limb grows straight out from the trunk. Limbs that have a smaller crotch angle grow almost straight up and have a tendency to split when they get bigger.
Even with small limbs, make sure that the cut is clean and slightly angled so that water will not gather on the cut surface. This helps prevent disease and insects from invading your tree. Finally, it is not necessary to use wound paint if the cut is made properly. Wound paints do not prevent decay. Wound paint can actually disturb and disrupt the ability of the tree to seal off wound sites. For more information about pruning trees, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.