Wind, rain, ice, hail, snow, and lightning wreak havoc on trees. You cannot protect your trees 100 percent from the perils of the weather, but you take steps before the storm to help them survive.
Following are a number of ways to prevent your trees from becoming badly damaged in a storm.
- Stake young trees. Staking and guying young trees helps the root systems establish themselves so they will be able to weather storms without uprooting. Gradually loosen and eventually (after five to seven years) release the ties.
- Prune forked branches. Branches that are forked at a wide angle can split the tree down the middle in a strong wind or ice storm. Prune off one of the forked branches to avoid losing the entire tree in a storm.
- Keep trees healthy. Like people, trees that are healthy and vigorous adapt better to challenges in their environment. Plus, if they do get damaged in a storm they are better able to recover from the damage. Water your trees, fertilize them properly, and keep the surrounding soil from becoming compacted.
- Do not over-fertilize or over-water. Too much water and too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause the crown of the tree to grow too much for the size of the root system, making the tree more likely to topple in a storm.
- Do not remove too many trees at once. If you want to thin a stand of trees, gradually remove trees over a period of years. This will allow the remaining trees to develop the ability to withstand winds, which they did not have to do when they were protected in the stand.
- Provide lightning protection. Lightning destroys plant tissue. In locations with frequent lightning storms consider installing lightning protection on rare, historic, and specimen trees.
While prevention is the best protection, you can help storm-damaged trees. Trees that have not been too severely damaged can be pruned to help them recover. Prune dead and dying branches back to the next major living branch. Do not fertilize until one growing season has passed.
Some species of trees are more resistant to storm damage while others are less resistant. One of the best ways to make sure your trees survive storms is to plant trees that are storm-resistant in your area.