Richmond County Extension Service Coordinator Sid Mullis and agriculture experts experienced in dealing with ice storms offer these tips to Augusta-area residents on handling landscape damage from the winter storm:
Before firing up the chain saw, assess the damage to a tree. Trees with split or severely damaged trunks and root systems are most likely goners, as are trees with less than 50 percent of their crowns. Pine trees will die if all of the top, green growth is lost.
Do nothing if there are any power lines down on any part of tree. Do not try to prune any damage that you cannot reach by standing flat on the ground – no climbing or using ladders. Exercise extreme caution when near any loose, hanging branches because they are often heavier than one would anticipate.
Do not top any tree – cut every limb back. The main limb must remain intact for a tree to grow properly. Topped trees develop weak limbs that are more susceptible to breakage.
To prune limbs larger than a inch you need to make three cuts – the first is underneath the limb about a third of the way through the bark, the second is on top several inches from where the limb meets the trunk (or a larger branch) and the final cut is just outside the branch collar, which is the swollen area where it meets the trunk or larger branch.
If there is a split in a limb, cut it all the way back to the trunk or to the ground.
Trees and shrubs bent during the ice storm might recover if staked for a number of months or an entire growing season. As for shrubs, trim off any cracked or broken branches to prevent further damage to the plant, but leave major pruning for later.
Wait until after spring bloomers finish blooming before doing hard pruning or give up on blooms this year.