Gardening: Take stock following a bad storm

Gardening: Take stock following a bad storm

Strong wind, steady or in gusts can damage trees by breaking limbs, splitting trunks, or causing trees to lean or fall. Once the wind has subsided take a close look at the trees for damage.

Broken limbs are easy to detect especially when trees are dormant. Branches could still be attached to the tree or have fallen to the ground. Remove any damaged or broken part of the tree by making a smooth cut at another branch or at the trunk. Broken branches are often caused by branches bumping or rubbing into one another.

A split trunk or tree occurs where two or more branches are joined together at an angle of 45 degrees or less. This is the natural growing pattern of some trees such as willows but it is more often caused by a tree losing its center leader. Once the leader is gone, the top buds that are left will do their best to replace the leader resulting in two or more leaders growing upwards forming a weak union. Removing all but one of the branches when they are small will solve the problem. When all the branches are left intact, they will continue to grow getting larger and heavier. In a strong wind the branches will sway in different directions stressing their union often causing it to crack and split.

Saving the tree is dependent on the amount of damage. Small tears can be bolted together by an arborist but often part or all the tree will need to be removed.

When trees are planted, they should receive enough support to keep it upright but the supports should be loose enough that the tree will move with the wind. The movement encourages the tree to grow anchor roots which run on or just under the surface of the soil. Their job is to hold the tree upright while allowing the top to sway in the wind. As the tree grows so do the anchor roots. In a mature tree the anchor roots extend far past the dripline of the tree.

For the most part the anchor roots hold the tree upright but if one or more of the anchor roots have been compromised the tree will topple over. There are a number of reasons why the anchor roots break including but not limited to: a tree reaching the end of its life cycle, changing soil conditions and removal of other trees and shrubs.

As a tree starts to reach the end of its life cycle the wood within the tree begins to break down as do the roots. The weaker wood in the anchor roots is more likely to crack as the tree sways.

Changing soil conditions affect the roots ability to anchor the tree into place. In an extremely wet year the roots tend to have a harder time holding the tree in place. Disturbing the soil and roots through construction, cultivation or compaction can compromise the plants root structure.

Plants are connected underground by what is called the Wood Wide Web which is made up of mycorrhizal fungi networks. Remove or kill a tree or shrub and the network must reroute which in turn will weaken the remaining plants making them more susceptible to wind damage.

To check for a broken anchor root, walk around the base of the tree looking for a new bump or lump in the soil surface. The bump is caused by a broken root moving upwards. If left, eventually the tree will fall in the opposite direction of the bump.

It is worthwhile to examine the trees after a bad storm as a falling tree or limb can cause large amounts of damage.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read