Regrouping after snow fall

A huge dump of wet snow early in the fall or late spring always damages trees and shrubs. The excess weight from the wet snow coats leaves and branches and, as a result, the branches begin to succumb to gravity and bend towards the ground.

A huge dump of wet snow early in the fall or late spring always damages trees and shrubs.

The excess weight from the wet snow coats leaves and branches and, as a result, the branches begin to succumb to gravity and bend towards the ground.

To prevent damage, go out and shake the excess snow off the tree before it accumulates.

Wearing a hood, reach up with a pole, broom or rake and shake the limb of the trees and shrubs to dislodge the snow. Wear head protection if the trees contain fruit or ice.

Strong trunks will bend and hang downwards. The quicker the weight is removed, the faster the tree with retain its upright position. Some trunks 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 to nature.

When the weight of the snow becomes too much, the branches and trunks snap. Regardless if the branch broke part or all the way, chances are that it needs to be removed.

Do not leave a jagged end or stump on the tree as it will not heal properly. Instead cut back to a healthy branch or the trunk. In the case of shrubs, it might be cut back to the ground.

Problems occur when a main trunk splits into a number of different trunks, becoming multi-stemmed.

The smaller the angle between the trunks, 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 trunk parts together but most often one of the branches is removed.

When removing large limbs, use the three cut method. First undercut the branch six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) from where the final cut will be.

Undercutting will separate the bark of the limb being removed from that of the rest of the tree, ensuring 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 seal the cut to prevent insects or diseases from entering the tree.

When removing damaged branches from shrubs, cut back to another branch or the ground. Shrubs 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 one-third of their top growth will send out a multitude of new growth in the form of watersprouts and suckers next growing season.

Remove suckers as they appear, unless the roots are the only part of the tree that survived. In that case, prune back the watersprouts 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 tree’s 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. It is possible to hire companies that will come in with a machine and grind stumps away.

A slower method is to purchase stump remover chemical and follow the instructions.

Make informed choices when repairing damage to trees, since replacing them is costly in time and money. Fortunately, there are many people who hold an arborist certificate or could be grandfathered in who are available to do the work.

Clearwater County is hosting a pruning workshop on Oct. 16 that will contain classroom and practical sessions. Sign up at the Landcare Office or by phoning 403 845 4444.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be contacted at

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