Gardening: Keep your trees free from snow

Plants react differently to late snowfalls in the spring and early ones in the fall.

In the spring, snow and leaves on trees usually results in bent branches and broken limbs due to excess weight from the wet snow coats that leaves and branches.

In the fall, leaves are more likely to fall to the ground under the weight of the snow causing less damage to the branches.

Regardless of the season, go out and shake the excess snow off trees and shrubs when the branches start to bend. Jiggling the plant with a pole or broom works well but be careful as chances of getting hit on the head are great.

The quicker the weight is removed the faster the tree with retain its upright position. Some trucks and branches will spring back to their original position once the snow is removed, others will take longer. Staking the trees upright might seem like a good solution but research has shown that the trees recover best if left as is.

If the weight of the snow becomes too much the branches and trucks snap leaving jagged edges that will need to be removed. Making a smooth cut to another branch, the trunk or the ground will allow the plant to form calluses over the injury thus protecting the plants from insect and diseases.

Problems are most likely to occur in either multi-stemmed trees that either start at the ground or part way up the tree. The smaller the angle between the trunks the weaker the union and the more likely a branch is to split from the rest of the tree. If the damage is not too extensive, an arborist can bolt the tree trunks together but most often the damaged branch is removed.

When removing large limbs use the three cut method. First undercut the branch 6-8 inches (15 – 20 cm) from where the final cut will be. Undercutting will separate the bark and living material of the limb being removed from that of the rest of the tree insuring the remaining bark will not be ripped as the heavy limb falls to the ground.

Next, cut the limb from the top down close to the undercut, in the direction of the tip of the branch. Once the majority of the branch is removed, make the final cut close to another branch or trunk making sure not to damage the collar.

Do not worry about using sealant or pruning paint on the cuts as it does not form a protective coat over the cut prevent insects or diseases from entering the tree.

When removing damaged branches from shrubs cut back to another branch or the ground. Removing stems from a shrub is often used to rejuvenate plant as it will send up new growth from the roots that will fill in areas where damaged wood has been removed.

Trees and shrubs that have lost over 1/4 of their top growth will send out a multitude of new growth in the form of watersprouts and suckers next growing season. To avoid the problem, try not to remove more of the plant at one time. if the plant was received extensive damage next growing season remove some of the suckers or water sprouts as they appear. If the plant had to be cut back entirely, prune back the waterprouts or suckers where needed to make a well shaped plant.

Trees are replaceable. If the tree is not going to be healthy or pleasing to the eye when all the damage is removed, it is best to remove the whole tree. Before making that decision understand that cutting the top off of a tree that is prone to suckering will trigger the trees survival mechanism which means that a multitude of suckers will appear. Killing the tree before cutting it down will stop the suckering.

Often the worst part of tree removal is dealing with the stump. Stump remover will work over time but a faster method is to hire a company to bring in machinery to grind down the stump to below the soil level.

Mature trees and shrubs are impossible or expensive to replace, Is in doubt hire an expert for advice or to do the work.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives by Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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