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Editorial: Give your shade-giver some TLC

The summer storm season takes a harsh toll on the beautiful trees that adorn so many yards in the area.

But there is a right way to help your tree recover and commonsense advice about removing trees that are too badly damaged. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forest health specialist offers the following "do's and don'ts:"


Carefully inspect standing trees for damage; deal with hazardous trees first.

Seek professional help, if available, when deciding which trees to remove. If more than 50 percent of the trunk circumference or live branches in the tree crown are damaged, or the tree is leaning with evidence of root lifting or breakage, the tree should be removed.

Watch for detached branches, loosely hanging branches, and split or cracked trunks that could cause injury or further damage.

Use proper pruning techniques, but limit pruning to making the tree safe. Incorrect or overpruning will further damage a tree that is under stress.

Use mulch to help conserve water in the soil, keep the soil cool, prevent soil compaction, and encourage more root growth. Keep mulch at least 4 inches away from the tree's trunk, maintain a depth of 2 to 4 inches deep, and cover an area at least 2 to 3 feet in diameter around small trees. Increase the diameter for larger trees.


Don't try to save or repair a broken branch or fork of a tree with tape, wire, bolts, or other wraps. It will not heal and the split will invite decay and further weaken the tree. Cabling or bracing should only be performed by a certified arborist and inspected annually.

Don't top trees. Doing so removes large portions of leaves needed for food production, makes trees more susceptible to insects and disease, and may result in new branches that are weakly attached.

Don't try to save a leaning tree that is more than 15 feet tall, especially if the soil has been raised on the side opposite of the lean. This usually indicates broken roots. Very young trees less than 15 feet tall may survive if they are gently pulled back into place. To avoid damaging the trunk, don't use rope or any narrow band of material when staking a tree. Instead, use a broad strap or other fabric at least one inch wide. Date the staking and remember to remove it the next year.

Don't be rushed by "bargains" offered by inexperienced vendors. Improper pruning (or tree removal) can be expensive and damaging, and sometimes result in the removal of healthy trees.

Don't use paint or wound dressing to cover wounds as these materials may actually interfere with the natural wound-sealing process. An exception is using latex-based paint to seal the wounds on oak trees during the months of May, June and July in areas that experience oak wilt.