First aid for storm damaged trees

Thunderstorms are synonymous with summer in Johannesburg and while the rain is welcome, the high winds and lightning can cause severe damage to your trees. But it’s not necessary to cut down your trees after a storm simply to remove the mess. With the proper first aid, trees can recover from storm damage.


Here’s what you should do after a storm:


  1. Assess the damage

After a storm, inspect your garden carefully. Look out for hanging branches, broken limbs and damaged cables.


  1. Remove small broken branches and neaten up torn bark

These are jobs you can safely tackle yourself until the professional tree fellers arrive. Remove small broken branches by pruning them where they meet up with larger branches. Don’t get carried away with the pruning though; the tree will need its foliage to provide it with nourishment as it heals.


Smoothing the jagged edges of torn bark will help the tree heal faster and eliminate hiding places for insects.


  1. Call in the professionals

A certified tree feller will have the expertise and equipment required to remove larger branches safely and carry out repairs correctly. If you think that topping a tree will avoid future storm damage, you’re wrong.  Cutting the main branches back to stubs will only result in branches growing back even weaker and more likely to break in future. If you’re unsure how to proceed, get advice from an arborist.


With the right care and attention storm damaged trees can survive, so don’t rush into removing them. Rather call in the experts and let them help you clean up the debris and salvage your trees.


Regular pruning reduces the risk of storm damage

There can be no sadder sight than that of tree that has been uprooted by a storm. Not only does it mean the end of the tree’s life, but it also has the potential to cause damage to power lines, property and people. However, regular pruning can reduce the risk of trees falling over in a storm.


Trees should be pruned on average every three to five years. However, this routine does not suit all trees so it’s best to get advice from a certified arborist. Thick crowns tend to trap the wind, like a sail which places an additional strain on the trunk of the tree.


Thinning out the crown allows the wind to pass through far easier. But one should never remove more than one third of the crown as this robs the tree of the foliage it need to provide nourishment.


The aim of pruning is to maintain the stability of the trunk and this can be achieved by removing horizontal limbs that measure more than half the diameter of the trunk.


Preserving the root structure provides stability

In addition to regular pruning by a professional, it is important not to disturb the roots of the tree. This often happens when laying an irrigation system, but damaging the root zone may result in weakening the tree. That’s why it’s important to untangle the roots of young trees before you plant them. If you don’t, the roots will remain tangled and never spread out, anchoring the tree in the soil.


A mature tree can survive storm damage, provided the trunk isn’t split or more than half of the crown is lost. Trees can take years to grow but be felled by a storm in minutes.  With proper planning and regular maintenance, you can prevent losing any of your trees to the savage Highveld storms.