How to Handle Damaged Trees and Shrubs

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With the recent storm you may be left wondering how to take care of damaged trees and shrubs in your yard. While smaller jobs can be tackled with the right tools, larger removal and pruning is often best left to professionals. But what’s the best way to do the work yourself, or find someone to work with?

examples of pruning cuts

Remove broken branches at the branch collar to promote proper healing. Image credit: Dr. Barb Fair, NCSU.

For minor damage to trees or most damage to shrubs, often the right set of tools is all you need. A set of bypass pruners, loppers, and a small handsaw will take care of most small pruning jobs (detailed discussion, includes pictures, of tools can be found by clicking here). Chainsaws should only be used if the operator has proper personal protective equipment and has taken chainsaw safety training.

While most pruning is best left to the winter when plants are dormant, you can always prune damaged branches. There’s no benefit to leaving dead or damaged tissue on a plant, as it can often be a place for disease to take hold. For branches on shrubs, it’s often best to cut back cleanly to the nearest larger branch or trunk.

For smaller tree branches, cut back to the nearest side branch, or, if cutting back to the main trunk, make sure to cut just outside the “branch collar.” This area can be clearly seen on many trees, and is where the branch widens out as it reaches the trunk. This special zone is better at healing, and will set your cut up for success. Never cut a tree branch flush with the trunk, as this type of cut is difficult to heal and will leave a large area exposed to disease and drying out.

Dashed red line shows correct cut, just outside flared collar. Another indicator of where to cut, the branch bark ridge is marked at yellow arrow. Image credit: Dr. Barb Fair, NCSU.

Removed debris can be placed either into brown yard waste bins, or, if you don’t have yard waste service, can be taken directly to the Yard Waste Facility at the Waste Disposal & Recycling Center at 2115 East Club Blvd. There is a small fee for yard waste disposal.

For removal and pruning of larger trees, it is worth hiring a tree care professional. A certified and insured professional has not only demonstrated a commitment to their profession and proper tree care, but receives ongoing training to stay up to date with current best practices. A detailed guide on different types of certifications, and how to find a professional near you, can be found by clicking here.

Further Reading

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Before the Cut” Dr. Barb Fair, Extension Horticulture Specialist and Assistant Professor Horticultural Science

Tools to Make the Cut” Dr. Barb Fair, Extension Horticulture Specialist and Assistant Professor Horticultural Science

General Pruning Techniques” Dr. Barb Fair, Extension Horticulture Specialist and Assistant Professor Horticultural Science

Hiring a Professional

How to Hire a Tree Care Professional” Dr. Lucy BradleyExtension Specialist, Urban Horticulture and Karen Neill Retired Extension Agent, Agriculture – Urban Horticulture Guilford County