February was a bit snowy. My Facebook page is inundated with photos of “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowmageddon” – kids jumping off roofs, walls of the white stuff bracketing the driveway, dogs getting lost in the powder, etc.
All impressive stuff. And we happily joined in, although there were times that I was probably too tired to even push the shoot button on the phone’s camera.
Now that the meltdown is on, I’ve taken some time to walk the neighborhood, trouncing through snow and slush. I expected to find a fair number of broken branches and limbs, but unfortunately, the trees and shrubs fared worse than I had hoped.
I saw branches resting awkwardly on fences and roofs; small fruit trees, no more than 8 feet high, with their main leader snapped in two; and plenty – and I mean plenty – of broken branches. I recommend removing as much snow as possible from branches throughout a storm period – especially if there are multiple heavy snow events like we saw in February.
When assessing this damage, the priority is safety. Is the damaged tree near or leaning on a power line, a building or vehicles? If it is, then you may want to let the power company or a professional arborist do the work. They typically have the equipment that allows them to access the damage safely and effectively.
The next step is to determine if the tree or shrub can be repaired, or if the damage is so severe that it should be removed. Again, qualified arborists can be the best judges of the condition of a tree and whether the plant can be salvaged.
Ask yourself these questions:
Has the central leader (the top most vertical branch) been severely damaged or lost? This is a tough judgment call. A tree or shrub can continue to survive without its leader, but it would be a stunted version of its original self. Is less than 50 percent of the tree’s crown, or branches, still intact? Experts believe that this is a good rule of thumb for tree survivability. If the tree has less than 50 percent, it will have a difficult time producing enough foliage for the upcoming season. Reduced foliage equals reduced nutrition for the tree, which will in turn equal a compromised species.If you answered “no” to either of these questions, then there is a much greater chance for tree and shrub survivability. Broken or cracked branches can be pruned now, as long as they are accessible. Next month, I will talk about correct pruning techniques, but if you can’t wait, I would highly recommend attending one of two workshops in March.
On March 11 at the Durango Public Library, the Colorado State University Extension Office will host a tree and tree care workshop. Topics will include the proper care and pruning of ornamental and fruit trees, as well as strategies for how to learn woody plants (still a daunting task for me). While many of those in attendance will be industry professionals, it will also be informative for land and homeowners.
We are also helping the Durango Botanical Society with its workshop, “Tips for Trees,” on March 16, also at the Durango Public Library. Tailored toward gardeners, participants will get great advice about selecting the right plant and putting it in the right place; some of the nasty diseases and insects that attack our trees and shrubs; and a hands-on demonstration about how to correctly prune our woody specimens.
To learn more about these workshops and register, visit www.laplataextension.org.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at [email protected] or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter